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Money issues when partner loses job - my role as SM?

(62 Posts)
sm12 Tue 22-Oct-13 11:34:39

DH has recently lost his job. This is not good news for anyone and he is stressed out, understandably. I really, really feel for him. He is doing all he can to secure another and looks like he will have to take quite a pay cut to get one.

Meanwhile, his ex has been less than sympathetic. Of course she is worried. Up until this point he has been paying her a very large four figure sum (Child maintenance + spousal maintenance), in part because he used to be a high earner but those days were some years ago and so he has been using what is left of his savings to continue at the same level. They have one child between them and shared residency.

Currently she is putting a LOT of pressure on him to sort this out, which he is trying so hard to do. He can pay her this month and maybe next with what is left in the pot but after that if he doesn't get a job....

I work full time, but don't earn a lot of money, and contribute to our household. It certainly won't stretch to keeping us all afloat. I do have some savings that I was hoping we could put down towards a deposit to buy a house in the future. In light of the changing financial circumstances I now have no problem in using this money to keep the three of us (me, Dh and stepchild) going until such time he finds a job but am now under some pressure to also fund the ex (talking spousal maintenance here, child maintenance I would be happy to pay). I think this may well evoke in me bad feelings, sorry!, and be harmful with regards to the DH's and my relationship in the future.

I know that the Ex lives mortgage free, works part time and receives benefits, and that not receiving the DH's spousal maintenance will be a hardship but.... Am I being unreasonable? How can I manage this without upsetting anyone, including me? What should I do?

123bucklemyshoe Tue 22-Oct-13 11:37:43

You are not being unreasonable. I think he needs to talkwith ex about change in circumscircumstances & how he has been keeping her afloat thus sound v reasonable

holidaysarenice Tue 22-Oct-13 11:46:12

I also think it is a ridiculous plan. As is dp using the remains of his savings to fund it.

I would suggest u do ur figures together for u dp and dc. Then he goes and speaks to his ew. Discusses how his finances have changed and that the situation will have to change.

He job status/benefits etc are nothing to do with u, she has to cut her cloth according to the income she has.

Is there a court order of maintenance? What does it say about changing jobs situation? It may be worth some legal advice.

sm12 Tue 22-Oct-13 11:50:47

Thank you both. It is not a court order of maintenance. They are separated (quite some years now), so the sum was agreed in their mediation a while ago.

I feel guilty about it and it's giving me sleepless nights! One thought I did just have, she can't enforce me paying her out of my own savings can she? I think she knows I have some.

Meanwhile the DH feels extremely guilty about not being able to 'provide'. All very stressful!

UC Tue 22-Oct-13 11:51:05

Agree with holidaysarenice. DP shouldn't be using his savings. He needs to get spousal maintenance reassessed. I don't have any experience of this, but this is surely exactly the sort of situation in which maintenance (both child and spousal) would be reassessed.

Can he log onto the CSA website to calculate his child maintenance figure? I imagine that will have fallen too with the new circumstances - and whilst your DP may want to try and keep up the larger payments, he may not be able to, and at least he would know what the bottom line was re child maintenance.

UC Tue 22-Oct-13 11:52:08

If sum was agreed in mediation years ago, then it's not written in stone.

Your income/savings shouldn't come into it I don't think. YOU have no responsibility to maintain DH's ex!

UC Tue 22-Oct-13 11:53:24

Have a look here -

Dogonabeanbag Tue 22-Oct-13 11:54:33

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

sm12 Tue 22-Oct-13 11:57:13

OK, calmer now! Thank you UC for the link, have looked. That and the other advice you give is very helpful.

catsmother Tue 22-Oct-13 12:38:06

I'm sorry you're in this very stressful and worrying situation and hope DH finds something soon.

As everyone else has said, you have no legal obligation to fund either child maintenance or 'spousal' maintenance, and certainly, so far as the ex is concerned - specifically - you have no moral obligation to fund her.

Although it's obviously going to be worrying for her too if her income drops - for whatever reason - she has no "right" to a sum which was agreed voluntarily when your DH's circumstances were very different. In fact, if the only way he's managed to continue paying this for some time is because he's used savings - as opposed to it being a fair reflection of his salary, then she's arguably been very fortunate so far. Spousal maintenance is becoming increasingly unusual these days unless one party is an extremely high earner and/or there are extenuating circumstances such as disability to be considered so again, if the only reason your DH agreed to this in the first place was because he used to earn well, she's done rather well compared to many divorcees.

Thing is - if they were still together, she would have to be dealing with this in the same way you are .... i.e. by belt tightening, by finding extra work (if possible), by considering downsizing, by using savings, by selling stuff .... not saying you're doing all that, but those are the sorts of things many people have to consider when a job is lost. It shouldn't be any different because her and your DH were once married and are now divorced. Unfortunate though it is she doesn't get magically protected from life's blows and will need to find her way through it just as you are. She certainly isn't entitled to a larger proportion of any available assets so her life can remain as unchanged as possible.

You say that you feel "under pressure" to give her SM ? Is that pressure you're putting on yourself or is your DH expecting you to use up your savings ? If so, he needs to get a reality check - you were never married to the woman after all ! And frankly - though I appreciate people have very diverse views on this - the fact that you have immediately and willingly said you're prepared to use some of those savings to pay child maintenance is something your DH should be very thankful and appreciative of .... because legally you have no obligation to do this either. The fact you say you're happy to do so is great, and understandably you want to minimise any impact upon your stepchild - but it isn't something you have to do, and if DH is also pushing for more for the ex, then he's being very unfair.

Let's face it, if ex has no housing costs, she's in a very comfortable position compared to many - and worries about keeping up with mortgage repayments or rent is probably the biggest concern for most people who lose their job. In other words, she's almost certainly not going to be made homeless as a result of this.

Just to add, many many years ago my DP lost his job and was out of work for some time - when he did get a job he took a significant (5 figure) pay drop, yet continued to pay his ex an "enhanced" sum of child maintenance ("enhanced" as in more than the CSA rate) which was based on his previous salary. This continued for a couple of years due to his "guilt" (not that he/we had anything to feel guilty about) but made things very difficult for us because we genuinely couldn't afford it - eventually he had to pull back and it didn't go down well at all (cue lots of "pay per view" type contact problems). I say this because it caused problems all round - the ex had got used to a certain sum that was unsustainable, so when it was reduced all hell broke loose - and we suffered financially trying to keep the status quo. I admit I felt (and still feel) extremely resentful that she - and his older children - weren't impacted at all during that time - whereas we were (including his youngest) and I will never get my head round the fact that somehow he thought it "fair" to redistribute his money that way. I will never understand why it was more important that his ex should be relieved of financial worry rather than us/me, so yes, you're right to be concerned about the potential impact upon your relationship if you end up in a situation where your DH prefers to keep his ex "sweet" at your expense.

UC Tue 22-Oct-13 13:01:18

Great post Catsmother.

Dogonabeanbag Tue 22-Oct-13 13:26:21

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

sm12 Tue 22-Oct-13 13:41:08

Goodness, catsmother, that is a brilliant post of yours. Can't thank you enough, I really can't. It has helped me no end. I would like to print it off and show it to him as I am finding it difficult in expressing how I feel and importantly how we should all progress. I hope that is OK.

He has not in anyway put the pressure on for me to pay the spousal maintainence but it has been hinted at in a rather round about way, and I know him well. He is one of the worlds most lovely and generous men. His desire to want to keep paying her regardless of our current dire situation has a lot to with his innate generosity, coupled with the fact that he hates confrontation and is worried about the backlash from his ex and also what impact that might have on his teenager, who we love very much. She, ex, has suffered from mild depression in the past, and of course that is a concern in the future with any change of circumstances in that they may bring about a negative change in her mental health, and that ultimately could not be good news for his child.

123bucklemyshoe Tue 22-Oct-13 14:22:47

I agree with cat's mother. Brillliant by the way.

Unfortunately, when children are involved you will inextricable linked. Therefore this situation is all of yours' responsibility including the ex. It then all of yours to manage together.

needaholidaynow Tue 22-Oct-13 14:31:49

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

catsmother Tue 22-Oct-13 14:43:09

Hmm ... that sounds so familiar, hating confrontation and worrying about a backlash! Doesn't make it right though, if one household unduly suffers while another isn't affected.

If your DH is as lovely as you say then clearly he's going to try to get work asap - and really, that is all his ex should expect of him. If she also continues to receive at least some child maintenance - thanks to you - then I'm not sure what else she can rightfully demand.

Otherwise, as I said before, she'll need to find her own way through this. I don't doubt this will be a shock to her system - as a large drop in income would be to most people - but unfortunately, in this day and age she must realise that many jobs are insecure ? The other thing to consider is that if she was getting so-called spousal maintenance (i.e. DH being very generous as it wasn't court ordered) then presumably this would have stopped once DSC turned 18 ? She can't possibly have imagined this would have continued forever and especially not when it was based on very different past income ?

If she's mortgage free then potentially she might be able to remortgage for a small sum to tide her over, or she could consider a lodger(s), or she might downsize. Though all of that is of course up to her. What I'm saying though is it's not really much of DH's concern though I appreciate he's worried about possible impact on his child and I understand he wants to minimise that. However - the child is the responsibility of both parents and she needs to do her bit too to avoid any impact. Sometimes though, stuff happens, and however galling it is, you just have to accept that this is how life is for the moment and that things have changed.

Personally, if she's the sort of ex to kick off rather than seek solutions then even when your DH gets a new job, and if he has genuinely disposable income to spare, I'd recommend that he stops this "spousal" element thing anyway. Any spare money could be saved for the direct benefit of the child (uni, car etc) - unless he thinks that ALL the money handed over 0- whatever it's called is actually being used specifically for the child.

I know he doesn't relish the thought but I think he needs to have a very explicit discussion with her about the situation and tell her when she'll get her last "big" payment - obviously it's only fair he does this so she knows where she stands. He should also tell her how much child maintenance you're able to pay on his behalf and impress upon her that you don't have to do this if she starts getting snarky. I think if he pussy foots around her and gives her any sort of impression that things will go back to how they used to be once he gets another job, he'll be storing trouble up for the down the line if a) he ends up with an even lower salary and b) when DSC becomes an adult and "spousal" stops anyway (along with child maintenance for that matter).

I also think you and he need to have a very clear convo about what you're prepared to do and/or not do so no "promises" are made to the ex on your behalf. Bear in mind the impact on your savings and future plans etc which you'll want to try and protect as much as possible. If he gets a lower paid job then that will probably have a knock-on effect on what can be saved for a future move - so it's no good him thinking that the ex's expectations can be magically solved when he gets a job.

Sorry to have written so much, but I think he needs to stand firm here. It's a bit of a watershed moment isn't it ?

Also hope the depression card isn't used to emotionally blackmail him into doing stuff that's inaffordable. I don't say that lightly having suffered from severe depression myself at different times in the past (pre-kids). Obviously, most people would feel worried and stressed by a drop in income but I don't think that'd tip most people into depression just like that unless there were other extreme stresses going on and this was the last straw. I actually think the ex sounds as if she's in a relatively strong position what with being mortgage free - this gives her options many people don't have when they face an income drop. Ditto, she can, in theory (not withstanding the economic climate) look for extra and/or different work because she works P/T - which, for example, someone who was already working F/T wouldn't find it so easy to do if they needed more money. Anyway - I've personally not suffered from depression for many years but when I later had mild bouts this was managed with ADs etc which meant it didn't really impact upon the children I had by then. I know everyone's different, but I think for it to affect DSC their mum would have to be quite severely affected. Hopefully all this won't lead her anywhere like that.

Petal02 Tue 22-Oct-13 15:30:44

Catsmother - you write some superb posts! I totally agree that the ex would have to take the rough with the smooth (financially speaking) if she were still with your DP, and it should be no different now they're apart.

In an ever-changing world you simply can't ring-fence an amount of salary on a set-in-stone basis.

Petal02 Tue 22-Oct-13 15:45:20

SM12 - just one other thing: rather than commit yourself to paying a proportion of child maintenance on his behalf, how about if you resolve to buy the child things (ie new shoes, coat etc) when he/she is staying with you? Then not only have you steered clear of making a commitment you really don't need to make to the ex, but also you're ensuring that the child gets the direct benefit of your generosity.

DH no longer pays maintenance (DSS is at Uni) and whilst I would rather have stuck pins in my eyes than hand over a penny of my salary to the ex, I would have been quite happy to buy things for DSS.

catsmother Tue 22-Oct-13 15:48:50

I know I keep going on, but it also occurred to me that it may not necessarily be a bad thing to speak to DSC about what's happened, at least the outline of it, if not the exact figures. Even if they're a young teen, and while they're not going to have a true appreciation of money, they should be old enough to understand that certain things may have to change as a result of dad losing his job and that it's no-one's fault as such.

In our case of course, the reduction in the sum given to the ex was "explained" away as dad "not caring", dad "spending all his money on Catsmother and her children", dad "being lazy", dad "not trying hard enough", dad "leaving it all to ex" and similar such helpful gems that caused a great deal of damage between DP and his children. Admittedly they were younger than teens so a full on (ish) financial discussion may not have been appropriate but what the ex said certainly bloody wasn't ! Am just thinking that if DH is worried about a backlash it may be as well that he explains the change in his circumstances in a simple and honest way before anything else that might not be so truthful is said instead.

Petal02 Tue 22-Oct-13 16:20:55

SM12, I'm not suggesting this is going to happen in your case, but you do hear about some 'second families' being ridiculously short of money, just so that previously agreed amounts of maintenance can be paid to the 'first family' even when circumstances have changed. I always used to think that (some) men were inclined to leave their 'first families' in the lurch to feather the 'new' nest but more often than not it sounds like the reverse applies.

sm12 Tue 22-Oct-13 18:25:27

A huge thank you to you all. You have helped enormously. A special thank you to you catsmother as I really do appreciate your posts. I haven't got much time just now but didn't want to read and run and not tell you all how appreciative I am. We have had a chat and things much clearer between us, thanks to such great advice. He is now going to speak to the ex, hopefully that will go well too. Will be in touch. Thank you again.

Petal02 Tue 22-Oct-13 19:09:59

I've often wondered what Catsmother does as a job (although I appreciate she might not want to say in case it makes her identifiable). I initially thought she may be a counsellor or a psychologist? Or maybe even a writer, as she's very good with words.

Catsmother - we salute you!!!

sm12 Wed 23-Oct-13 19:55:16

Just a quick update. He spoke to his ex yesterday and explained the whole situation. So as it stands, and until further notice, it will only be the child maintenance that is paid, and he currently pays more than the CSA recommended amount but that's OK as it's for the SC. He can do this himself at the end of this month, after that, should he not be able to find another job, I will have to dip in, which I don't mind. I have though decided absolutely and in part thanks to catsmother, that I will not pay the spousal maintenance and he very much agrees with me on that - phew! She will have just over 2K coming in a month without the Spousal Maintenance, which in truth, and as the DH pointed out is currently more than we get! ;-)

There has been a bit of backlash, to be expected I guess as these are worrying times for all of us. DH is going to speak to the lovely teenager about it all so they are in the picture but do so that they don't worry. Fingers crossed for the future!

elliebellys Wed 23-Oct-13 20:24:51

Sm 2000 is way ample.maybe when used to that ammount no more spousal maintanance will ever need to be paid again..good luck nd hopfully your dp will soon get another job.

Petal02 Wed 23-Oct-13 21:07:54

SM12, I'm still not convinced you should be contributing to child maintenance ...... I fear you and your DP are making a rod for your own backs.

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