I have been married for eight years. My husband and I have had our ups and downs, like most married couples. We got married young – he was 26 and I was 25 – which probably wasn’t the best idea since we’d only known each other for a year and a half. We have both changed, not always for the better, and we are very different people now.
We have one child. I sacrificed my career and took on most of the responsibility for our child, working part-time for a while. He plays golf. I am staying at home. He gets promoted. I take our child to birthday parties and after-school activities.
“‘Should I hold on until he inherits this money? Don’t I deserve at least a share of this inheritance? I would like to start over with some form of security.’ ”
We are so used to being in an unhappy marriage that it has become our way of life, our normal. We’ve talked about the future, and we’ve talked about the fact that we might have a future separately, and I’ve thought a lot about divorce privately. If I’m honest, I haven’t been happy more than half the time we’ve been together. Having a child two years after we got married only put us in a holding pattern.
His only surviving parent is in poor health, and when his father eventually dies, he expects to inherit about $1 million or more.
I feel like I’ve given so much.
Should I hold on until he inherits this money? Don’t I deserve at least a share of this inheritance? I would like to start over with some kind of certainty. If we stayed married, would this inheritance be his and his alone? Is there a way to ensure this doesn’t happen? I know this sounds like I’m a gold digger, but I’m not.
I just want to walk away from this marriage with enough money to start over, especially considering the backseat my career has taken to allow me to care for our child while he went from strength to strength.
Ready for a new life in Arizona
You deserve 100% happiness and 50% of community property – that’s the money you earned and the property you acquired during your marriage, including your home. Let’s also hope that your child remains 100% healthy and happy.
It will be difficult to start over. Divorce is devastating. It will at least halve your finances and make your financial life more challenging; you’ll need to find a place to live, assuming you don’t continue to live in the family home, and you’ll share custody, which means at least some single parenting while you work.
Your spouse, if you are still married at the time of his inheritance, should seek legal advice, especially if your marriage is coming to an end. That’s not something you’re likely to advise him, and I don’t blame you. There is no guilt here: just feelings of resentment, regret for the paths not taken and a sense of unfairness that your husband will leave after the time you put into raising your children at the expense of your career will walk away with a career you might have had and an extra $1 million.
“ If he were to use some of that $1 million to upgrade your home or pay joint expenses, or even deposit it into a joint bank account, it would probably get commingled. ”
If your husband wanted to keep his inheritance separate, assuming he wasn’t expecting an impending divorce, he could and should put it in a separate bank account or, better yet, a living trust, to keep it from getting mixed up with your marital assets. That legal process of mixing known as transmutation would be good for you, but bad for him. If he were to use some of that $1 million to upgrade your home or pay joint expenses, or even deposit it into a joint bank account, it would probably get commingled.
It may make sense to stay married until you reach the ten-year mark. “If you are age 62 or older and have been married to your ex for at least ten years, you may be able to receive monthly payments equal to about one-third to one-half of your ex-spouse’s Social Security benefit,” according to the AARP. “Divorced people can receive a survivor benefit from 71.5% to 100% of the deceased ex-spouse’s benefit amount, depending on your age at the time you file.” But those rules only apply if you do not remarry.
You have a choice to make. You can stay married in the hopes that your husband will inherit this $1 million and – somehow – commingle it with your marital money. But this choice is not entirely advisable. His father may live another ten years. Let’s hope he does that and has a good quality of life too.
Women continue to make more sacrifices in marriage to care for children, something that is supported by a lot of data. But I urge you to also accept the choices you have made so far.
Readers write to me with all kinds of dilemmas.
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More from Quentin Fottrell:
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‘She says it’s not fair’: My wife is retiring at 62 and I’m ready at 59. We have $5 million. Am I lazy?