If you are a husband who is heading into a divorce case in Texas, you probably have some concerns over who is going to pay household bills during your divorce case. You may not know exactly whether you or your spouse are going to be the person who remains in the family house during your divorce. However, since you are the primary caretaker of the home as well as the primary breadwinner you probably have assumed that you are going to be the one who is responsible for paying household bills during your divorce.
The reality of the situation is that if you are going through a divorce the remaining portions of your life do not go on break just because of your divorce case. Your work, children's lives, and everything else ongoing in your life will still proceed as normal despite the tumultuous nature of a divorce case. This is something that you need to be aware of and have plans to deal with. Falling behind in your home maintenance, bills or even your mortgage payments during a divorce can have negative consequences for you from a financial standpoint as well as when it comes to the divorce case itself.
When it comes to your divorce, remember that the case will touch on every aspect of your marriage as well as your parenting circumstances with your children. Marriage is not only about the problems that you have been experiencing with your spouse. Rather, the divorce will have relatively little to do with the recent problems in your marriage and more to do with dividing property, conservatorships of your children, and the day-to-day events of your life during the divorce itself. This includes the need to pay household bills.
You need to know ahead of time that as the primary breadwinner of your family you likely will bear the burden of paying most if not all of the household bills for your family during a divorce. While your spouse will probably need to find an income source for herself after the divorce comes to an end, it is unrealistic to expect her to be able to find sufficient income to pay household bills in the short amount of time in between filing your divorce and the first opportunity for a household bill to become do. As a result, you will need to continue to pay those household bills until you are told otherwise by a family court judge.
What you need to figure out for yourself and your family is just how far your obligation goes to pay these household bills. It would be understandable for you to be responsible to pay household bills during a divorce if you are still living in the home. However, what if you and your spouse decide that you should leave the family home? Would you still be responsible for paying those bills even after you leave the home? This is what we are going to talk about with you today in this blog post.
One of the most intimidating situations that you can find yourself in during a divorce case is having to shoulder the burden of paying for household bills for an indefinite period during the case. In situations where your spouse already earns an income it is reasonable for him or her to have to pay bills, as well. Having an experienced family law attorney by your side throughout the case can help you to only pay those bills or expenses that are reasonable and commensurate with your income.
The experienced family law attorneys with the law office of Brian Fagan are here to assist you in circumstances where you might otherwise be taken advantage of by your spouse and their attorney. Our attorneys will not allow you to get pushed around by an aggressive opposing attorney or by your spouse. We will take the initiative and help you to maintain your home while not draining every dollar possible from your bank account. If you would like to speak with one of our experienced family law attorneys you can reach out to us in person, over the phone, or via video for a free-of-charge consultation with one of our attorneys.
Should you pay the bills before you are ordered to do so?
A divorce is a strange period for any adult because you are in a position where you can't exactly do what you want or what you think is best in everything you do. Yes, you can pick where you go for lunch during the workday. No, you can't pick your kids up from school every day unless you are scheduled to have possession with them. As I said, it is strange as an adult to have to defer to another entity when it comes to daily decisions in your personal life but that is the position that you are in when you file for divorce.
Being the husband in your home probably meant a few different things, foremost among them that you were relied upon to provide for the home financially. That doesn't necessarily mean what it used to be decades ago when you would probably have been the only breadwinner in the home. Now, most homes have two breadwinners and two people who contribute to the overall income environment. However, for today's blog post we are going to assume that you are the primary breadwinner who earns more than your wife and is therefore counted on more so when it comes to paying household bills like utilities, the mortgage, and things of this nature.
Depending upon your perspective, it could feel like you are either doing the right thing in paying the household bills or being pushed around by your spouse. It can especially feel this way if you are not even living in the home any longer. Many people in your position simply continue to pay the bills out of a routine or ease. If all or most of the household bills are hooked up to your credit card or checking account, then changing them can seem like one more hassle for you to go through during an already busy time in your life.
Ultimately, what will determine which bills you pay, and which bills your spouse pays during the divorce will be contained in the Temporary Orders. Temporary Orders give you and your spouse marching orders for the case in terms of the important issues in your life including parenting of your children, where each of you will live, and how to divide up financial responsibilities including the paying of household bills.
Until you get to the temporary orders phase of a case you and your spouse will need to figure out a plan for how to divide up household responsibilities for the bills. How you do this is completely up to the two of you. There is no right or wrong way to do this necessarily but falling behind in your bills when you do not need to be a mistake. Organize yourselves and be intentional about how you divide up your responsibilities in this regard. Do not assume that your spouse is going to be handling something unless she has specifically told you that she is going to.
You may want to create a spreadsheet that you both can access that lists all your bills and what payment information is hooked up to each. You can keep track of any that need to be changed. Bear in mind that you should not be opening or closing bank accounts at this stage of a divorce. Maintain any accounts and do not spend money wildly at the beginning of a divorce, especially until a judge can issue some temporary orders to guide your actions better.
I realize that it may be a bit presumptuous of us to suggest that you and your spouse work together on much anything at this point in your lives. If you and your spouse cannot manage to set aside your differences enough to discuss household bills that should give you some indication that you may need help when it comes to communicating about even more important subject matter such as your children. You can use your household bills as sort of a training ground on how to be as objective and fair as possible with the other person even if you are angry or upset with him or her about a matter related to your divorce.
Think about the overall impact that paying a particular bill has on your bottom line. If you can afford to pay the bill and it doesn't register or make you change your behavior, then you may want to consider paying the bill just to avoid fighting or acrimony that may result from going back and forth with your spouse on a subject like this. Emotions can still be raw during this stage of a divorce, and it is important to be respectful even when you may not want to be.
Understanding what is practical versus what is in your best interests
You should consider the issue of paying for bills to be related to your self-interests as well as any problems that may result from your failure to pay a certain bill. Staying current on your mortgage is important given that your home mortgage probably has your name on it in addition to your spouse’s so long as the mortgage was taken out during the marriage. This means that no matter what happens in the divorce you will be responsible for paying that mortgage until the loan is paid in full or refinanced.
That is another interesting aspect of a divorce case that we think bears mentioning. No matter what a judge says in temporary orders or final orders in your divorce, that does not absolve you of the responsibility to pay the mortgage. The mortgage company does not care what your judge decides for you in a final decree of divorce. If you signed on the dotted line with a mortgage company, then you are responsible for paying that bill on time and in full. Do not rely upon what your judge says in an order. By the same token, you should be aware that if your spouse takes on the responsibility of paying a bill with your name on it you should be cautious about agreeing to that in mediation unless you are confident in their ability to pay it moving forward.
What is the most practical for you and your to-do concerning bills?
It makes sense for you and your spouse to divide bills according to what you all use on an everyday level. If you use a certain vehicle, then you should pay that note. The same goes for your spouse. If you have left the family home then you may not be able to help your spouse with utility, lawn maintenance, and other bills that are in existence due to having new bills of your own. If you are going to have difficulty when it comes to helping with the household bills if you move out and find a place to live, then you should consider that factor. Staying in the house, if it is safe and practical, is a great idea to save money and plan your next steps.
What could you be signing up for if you agree to pay the bills during a divorce?
Leaving the family home may do a few things to your mentality regarding the bills being paid. If you have children, then you will probably feel more of a “push” towards paying those bills out of a love for your children and a desire to make sure that they are provided for no matter what is going on with your marriage. To want to pay the household bills for a household that you do not live in anymore is a noble intention.
However, if you do not have children living in the marital home then you probably feel much less of a push to pay the bills. Your spouse is probably working and can take on the basics of the home as far as utility bills and things of this nature. While you may be ok with paying a portion or even all of the mortgage, the utility bills and other upkeep around the house can probably be afforded by your spouse. Maintaining some degree of stability in your life is one thing but paying bills that don't stand to benefit you any longer is a different subject altogether.
The other side of the coin that you should think about is that a family court judge will not necessarily look at your paying the household bills during the divorce as you being a generous person. It is not as much that as it is a court does not give you credit for anything that you are not obligated to do under a court order. You can try to be magnanimous, generous, or anything else but ultimately you need to make sure that what you are paying will not eat into your budget to the point where you can no longer continue with your responsibilities. Not being able to pay your rent or for your attorney is not a good tradeoff for paying the mortgage diligently throughout your case.
Feeling good during a divorce for having done the right thing is not necessarily a good enough reason to take on the responsibility of paying the mortgage or any other bill when you have not been ordered to do so. A good rule of thumb is only to pay those bills that are necessary and cannot be paid for by your spouse. Coming to an agreement where she pays a portion, and you pay a portion is fine. Just be sure to work out a plan where she can pay you back or vice versa. It's tedious to have to split a light bill each month but if that is what works best for the two of you it is a small price to pay.
Then, you should work to set up temporary order mediation as soon as possible in your case. This does not have to happen the week after you file your petition, but it may as well be. Everything is leading up to this stage of your divorce where you and your spouse can put your heads together to come up with a plan for how to attack the bills and other issues in your lives. Sit down and figure this out as early in the process as possible that way there are no disagreements or inefficient use of your resources to worry about. By mediating your case early, you can avoid most if not all the issues that we have walked through in this blog post.
Questions about the material contained in today’s blog post? Contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan
If you have any questions about the material contained in today's blog post, please do not hesitate to contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan. Our licensed family law attorneys offer free of charge consultations six days a week in person, over the phone, and via video. These consultations are a great way for you to learn more about the world of Texas family law as well as about how your family's circumstances may be impacted by the filing of a divorce or child custody case.