I support a deadbeat husband who refuses to get divorced

I have been married since 2012. Our relationship was never really great from the beginning (we met in 2005) and marriage did not improve it. As soon as he moved into my house in 2011 he began treating me like a roommate with benefits — he could not show me any love or affection and didn’t seem interested in being a life partner. I opted for counseling in 2015 and we attended that for five months, with no improvement in our relationship. We ended up taking separate vacations at the end of 2015.

By the end of last year the periodic sex had stopped completely and it never resumed. Now he has his own room. So we are nothing but roommates at this point and I have no life with him whatsoever — we just live in the same house (which I bought for myself in 2003). We are both 58. I am still an attractive woman and don’t want to waste any more years on a man who cannot love me, so I finally decided to file for divorce, which he was agreeable to — at first.

But some financial complications have developed, putting a wrench in my future.

He and I never opened joint accounts or merged any finances at all, mostly because he literally has nothing accumulated for all the years he has worked, and I knew that — no retirement, no savings, no property. So from day one in my house he paid his bills (including child support) and I paid mine, and he wrote me a check for $500 a month, sort of like rent from a roommate. I kept the house in good repair and all the utilities paid.

I am still an attractive woman and don’t want to waste any more years on a man who cannot love me, so I finally decided to file for divorce, which he was agreeable to — at first.

We were each earning about the same money until I took a really good job at the end of 2013, which made me the higher earner by about $30,000 a year. However, in 2015 I had to take on responsibility for my older, disabled brother’s living expenses every month.

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This past July my husband informed me that he was now so deeply in debt that he could no longer write me the $500 check every month at all. So I took him to credit counseling, and his financial picture was so bad that a bankruptcy filing looked necessary. So I took him to a bankruptcy attorney, too.

Since our marriage was already on life support, and I did not want to be dragged into any sort of debt payment plan on his behalf, I went ahead and had a lawyer draft a standard, no-fault divorce petition so I could move on with my life and he could get a Chapter 7 filing and a clean slate. In this divorce petition is a reasonable deadline for my husband to move out of my house — it would give him several months to find somewhere else to live if he started looking now.

Unfortunately, my husband is not looking to relocate. He is also now saying that he doesn’t want to file for bankruptcy, and that his finances will turn around in “18 months or so.” He seems to be expecting me to carry him financially for at least that long. He has a problem with being expected to relocate just because our marriage is ending, but when I told him he would have to sign a lease and pay rent after the final divorce if he wanted to stay here, he would not agree to that either. So he appears to be expecting me to let him live in my house at my expense until he is good and ready to move, with no timeline as to when that might actually occur.

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So now I am really stuck, because I am the only one with anything to lose. If I let him push me into filing a traditional divorce complaint just to get him out of my house, I am quite sure he will get an attorney of his own and will come back with demands for alimony and part of the equity in my house, and part of my retirement account (which I opened at the new job in 2013).

I have three questions: Do I need to accept that he has the upper hand and that I will have to keep living my sterile, loveless existence until I am ready for retirement or longer? Do I have to accept that if I want a divorce I will also have to agree to let him live here at my expense indefinitely? Should I try filing for legal separation instead and then see if he will sign some sort of agreement to pay some meager amount of rent to live in my house?

Karen in Atlanta

Dear Karen,

No. No. No. You don’t have to do any of those things.

Georgia is an equitable distribution state, so you and your husband will only divide marital property acquired during your marriage. The divorce court will not transfer the title of your home to your husband if it’s in your name. But you need to show your lawyer a full inventory of your assets and separate bank accounts. A judge may decide that any additional equity is deemed marital property, as the mortgage was paid off during your marriage.

You will also have to discuss the marital debt your husband accrued during your marriage, and it may be worth both your while if he pursued personal bankruptcy before your divorce. However, if you can show that your husband racked up these debts by himself, while you were financially responsible, it’s also likely that the judge would assign the debt to your husband. It could go either way and an attorney will best advise based on your circumstances.

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You don’t want to be a prisoner of your husband’s debt or financial dependence. It may take a lifetime decades for him to finally stand on his own two feet. Here’s the good news (sit down and pop yourself a bottle of sparkling wine): You only got married in 2012, so the sooner you get out of this marriage, the fewer financial obligations you will have to this man. If you wait another four years for him to drag his feet, the likelihood of a judge awarding him more money will increase.

But don’t take it from me. Take it from Randy Kessler, an Atlanta-based lawyer who wrote the book, “Divorce: Protect Yourself, Your Kids, and Your Future.” “As a divorce lawyer for nearly 30 years, I have come to believe that divorce is not about money, it is about happiness. Will you go to bed happier and wake up happier if you divorce him? If so, you may have your answer. I just do not think the choice to divorce can or should be made solely based on finances.”

You can’t afford to do nothing — for your future finances or romances.

Do you have questions about inheritance, tipping, weddings, family feuds, friends or any tricky issues relating to manners and money? Send them to the Moneyologist and please include the state where you live (no full names will be used).

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View more information: https://www.marketwatch.com/story/i-support-a-deadbeat-husband-who-refuses-to-get-divorced-2016-10-27

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