How to handle finances during a separation?
July 5, 2011 7:58 AM   Subscribe

Need advice on handling finances during a separation. I will be seeking the advice of an attorney/mediator in the near future, but want to hear how others have handled similar situations.

So, it looks like my husband and I are headed for a separation. We are in our mid-30s, have been married for 3 years and have no kids. We keep separate finances for the most part, with the exception of a joint savings account which isn't substantial. We bought a house 2 years ago. We both make similar salaries, and divide the bills as such: he pays the mortgage and his car note, and I pay the rest (household bills, cell phone, car insurance, my own debt, etc.).

My state requires 6 months of separation before we can file for divorce. I will likely be the one to move out, mainly because I have family in town that I can stay with and he doesn't. He also could probably afford to take over all the household bills, whereas I could not afford to do so (I have additional debt acquired before we got married). In the long run, our plan would most likely be to sell the house and divide any profits/deficit. However, how do we handle the house in the meantime? If he stays in it, can I turn over responsibility of house-related expenses to him? Right now all the bills are in my name, and frankly, I am nervous about letting him handle these due to a track record of financial irresponsibility on his part. However, it will be damned-near impossible for me to get a place of my own if I'm still on the hook for all the house bills. I am not looking to screw him over or burden either of us financially. Is there a typical way this is handled?

Bonus question: any recommendations for family attorneys or divorce mediators in Louisiana?
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (6 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I have a friend in a similar situation. She and the would-be ex split the mortgage but she is in the house and responsible for the electric, etc. They are pretty chill and the bills are still in whatever person's name opened the account, but if you're truly nervous about him paying the electric and being on the hook for it, you could agree to pay half the mortgage and he would get new utility accounts in his name.
posted by Medieval Maven at 8:05 AM on July 5, 2011 [1 favorite]

Could he get a roommate to help with the house bills?
posted by ian1977 at 8:16 AM on July 5, 2011

When I left my wife, I just took on all debt. I couldn't afford any of it, but it made it easier. I sent her to live with her parents while I took on everything myself. It was worth every bit of financial stress to me to not have to deal with her. It sounds insane, but I would probably do it again that way if it came up.
posted by TinWhistle at 8:23 AM on July 5, 2011

When I went through it, we froze our savings and through the mediator divided all expenses - including her new rent. She was still responsible for a portion of the rent in our old place while I looked for a new place as well. I covered all utilities of our old place. Likewise we made sure she had a secure place to live. Both places were paid out of our joint account in escrow. As soon as I found a new place, any financial obligation via rent was ended. Had she moved into a ridiculously expensive place, I would not have agreed to that, but at that time it was reasonable and ensured she paid our joint responsibilities. It also prevented her from sticking me with the whole rent and responsibilities - as I was blindsided by the end.

Divorces are not cheap. This split up, assuming it is legally a mutual decision meant to me that I still needed to make sure she was okay. This is where the real expense of the divorce got eaten up.

Lastly, had I known she was cheating, I probably would have gone for a contested divorce, and sought for her to not only pay for her new place, but for half of the old place as well... I would have gone for absolutely everything - including alimony/restitution regardless of whether I would win or loose.
posted by Nanukthedog at 8:50 AM on July 5, 2011


Go to a good lawyer sooner, rather than later, even if it's just to consult and perhaps to retain later. If things are relatively amicable, ask the lawyer how to set things up for an uncontested divorce. The lawyer can suggest how to split the expenses in a reasonable and fair way. In my state, both spouses may be paying the mortgage, but the one who remains in the house may have to pay something to the other spouse for half the fair rental value.

If you have even a tolerably civil relationship with your soon-to-be-ex, do what you can to keep it that way, and after consulting with a lawyer, see if you can't reach an agreement and split the cost of a lawyer to draft the settlement and shepherd the case through to judgment.
posted by Hylas at 10:25 AM on July 5, 2011

You need to sell the house ASAP - don't let him dither there! If he insists he wants to keep it then he must refinance and you should get a lawyer to draft a document saying he has X months to refinance or he must sell it.
posted by meepmeow at 3:36 PM on July 5, 2011

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