divorce-filter: protect friend from his wife financially
August 26, 2008 4:24 PM   Subscribe

divorce-filter: protect friend from his wife financially, her secret bank accounts, hostility, etc

I have a close personal friend who I think is on the verge of a divorce (although he doesn't think so) and I am getting all the warning signs.

His wife is hostile towards him non-stop- yelling at him over things he has no control over, picking fights at random times over past incidents. I'm pretty sure (very sure actually) that this fighting and hostility goes well above and beyond normal marriage quibbling. The reason I say this is because it happens every day, all year long. Also, the man in question is very quiet and intellectual and holds a well paying job. It should be noted that the she threatens divorce in several arguments that she can't win.

Where things get hairy is as follows: His wife is just about to finish her nursing degree. She has set up a bank account without him knowing to deposit the money she earns from her hospital work directly into. The reason my friend doesn't know about this is because his wife "handles the money" in the household.

My question is, how can my friend protect himself financially when the sh** finally hits the fan. I suspect that my friend will be left with his wife's school debt (as well as her other debt...) after the divorce happens. Also there is the issue of who gets custody over their two teenage kids. He is an excellent father who should get the kids, but courts almost always favor women.

Thanks ahead of time for any help you guys can offer.
posted by evanrodge to Work & Money (13 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
So how do you know about the secret account?
posted by Liosliath at 4:30 PM on August 26, 2008

She has set up a bank account without him knowing to deposit the money she earns from her hospital work directly into.

How do you know this? Why do you know this but he doesn't know this? Tell him. He can take steps to get evidence of this (having a friend pick up the mail, etc.) if he knows.
posted by ten pounds of inedita at 4:32 PM on August 26, 2008

He can get income information from her employer when filing the paperwork with the courts. Any divorce lawyer can do this.
posted by saucysault at 4:44 PM on August 26, 2008

In a divorce proceeding, there's really no such thing as "secret accounts" that stay hidden forever. It all has to come out in discovery. There are huge risks in attempting to hide funds, lots of repercussions. That will be the least of your worries.

And there's not much that can be done before the shit hits the fan, either, other than attempting to gather all the documentation (financial and otherwise) you'll need. Make sure you have all the numbers, files, etc, ready to go. That will be your worry -- documenting and proving things you know to be true.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 4:45 PM on August 26, 2008

Response by poster: For the folks asking about how I know about the secret account, I used the term 'friend' to protect my 'friends' identity, since my username is kind of transparent to those who know the family.

Hint: there are really 3 children.
posted by evanrodge at 5:29 PM on August 26, 2008

You've only got two choices, really. Hope for the best or tell your fath... I mean friend about the secret account and that he should lawyer up NOW. It would be awful to get involved in their divorce in this manner. The only thing more awful might be to see a "friend" who you say is a very good father get screwed over without seeing it coming.

I don't envy you the situation. But telling him might be the only way to protect him.
posted by Justinian at 5:39 PM on August 26, 2008

Wow. That's shitty all around. I know it's hard, but I would tell him. If you're worried about maintaining a relationship with the friend's wife, maybe he'll cover for you and never reveal exactly how he found out. If you're worried that might not be kept secret as emotions heighten, then maybe you can mention it with the assumption he knows? Something like, "so why did X set up a separate account? Is everything okay?" Or "You do know about x's separate account, right?" Or "I owe x $50 should I be depositing it in your joint account or the one she has separately?" That might make it sound less like you're spilling the beans, and more about trying to find out what's going on in a family you care a great deal about. Good luck!
posted by katemcd at 6:02 PM on August 26, 2008

In Canada, children over 12 get to choose which parent they live with. Family law might be similar where you are. Let the kids choose for themselves, and don't guilt or pressure them one way or another.
posted by orange swan at 7:30 PM on August 26, 2008

Even if the account is in the woman's name, it is a marital asset and belongs to both of them. Your dad , um, I mean your "friend" may know about the account. He certainly knows that she is getting paid. He knows about the money in any case and since they are married, it doesn't matter which account it goes into. It belongs to both of them in the end. It would get split up or counted against her when if they did split. I don't think you should tell him, I think you should talk to him about the whole thing. Just ask him, "Are you guys going to get divorced?" and then you can tell him about your concerns. The money is not that important compared to the rest of it.

You could have asked this question anonymously in the first person. Did you know that you could do that? I think you would get better, heartfelt advise if you reveal the actual situation.
posted by lee at 8:58 PM on August 26, 2008

If the whole "fath..." thing is right, you're in a really shitty situation. I don't know how you can help protect your "friend" financially here.

I do know that kids whose parents are getting divorced should not let themselves get caught as a go-between in any way. You know that phrase "don't shoot the messenger?" it exists because of the natural urge to shoot him. (I think I heard that on mefi somewhere.) They should encourage their parents to talk to one another. From what I've heard, there are only three cardinal rules of getting through parents divorcing, and "don't get caught in the middle" is definitely in that short list.
posted by salvia at 10:05 PM on August 26, 2008

Unless you are the husband or wife in this situation, you need to stay out of it. Even if you are a very close spectator, you can't know what goes on inside someone else's marriage. The exception is cases of abuse, then you step in to help. In most situations, nothing good comes of meddling in someone else's marriage.

If they divorce, then you can share with your "friend" your observation regarding the marital assets. Until then, respect the boundaries of their marriage.
posted by 26.2 at 12:14 AM on August 27, 2008

Obviously it is very worrying for you. But the worries you list are not likely to be problems. Earnings from nursing are hardly secret -- nor (for a newly qualified person with a high-earning spouse) are they likely to be big enough to be a major factor in a fair divorce settlement. Courts try to do what is best for the child -- teenage children obviously have a voice in that, especially as they will shortly reach an age where they can choose where they live.

Think about aspects of the situation that you might be able to change, but I agree with @26.2 that nobody knows the full story except the husband and wife, so you may not know what can be changed. Note that the husband should certainly be better than you at judging the meaning of threats of divorce. It is interesting that you don't mention her shouting at the kids. However, one thing you can do is try is to encourage the kids to work (within reason) to lower stress levels.

Anyone who completes a nursing degree while coping with 3 teenage kids deserves respect. Her life has probably been very stressful while she was doing it, and her husband may be accurately calculating that graduation and earning her own money will radically change the situation. Perhaps you can help in celebrating the graduation and emphasising the end of a phase.

In your last question you mentioned depression. If the situation gets to you, you should protect yourself by ensuring your condition is monitored and treated if necessary.
posted by Idcoytco at 5:54 AM on August 27, 2008

Your friend should talk with a lawyer now- to make sure he knows his rights and protects himself. This does not mean he will be embarking on a journey towards divorce -it is the pro-active thing to do- and, yes, laws, for better or worse, do favor mothers/ protect wives, and some are willing to con the system to take full advantage of that fact.
posted by mistsandrain at 11:24 AM on August 27, 2008

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