TBD on Ning

I know I'm usually here for laughs, but tonight I have a serious question.

In the spirit of the original TBD, I bring you a problem that I hope will yield to the collective wisdom of this group.  I certainly don't have a clue.

A woman I know has been listening to her biological clock ticking, with increasing urgency, for several years.  About two years ago, she met a man and their relationship developed until recently they decided to have a child.  All went well, and she is now several months into a healthy pregnancy.

Now for the complicated part.

He has a child from a former marriage who has emotional issues that have become very expensive: accidents, injuries, liabilities, treatments.  Dealing with the problems has made it difficult for him to work and has drained his bank account.  It's beginning to drain his retirement accounts.

They are not married, but she expects that they will raise their child together.  She doesn't want his financial problems, which don't seem likely to end soon, to devour her own savings and income.  She has a job and some money set aside, but calculates that it will just be enough for her and the baby.  She wants to insulate the baby from the financial woes of its father.

I anticipate that some people will say that she should have been prepared to accept this sort of risk when she decided to have a baby with this man -- after all, she's not in a relationship with just him; she's in a relationship with him and his family, including children from former marriages and the corresponding obligations...  but that's not really going to be constructive at this point.  The situation is what it is, and her attitude about it is that the baby comes first and she doesn't want to pay his debts with the money that she wants to spend on her baby.

So, if there's some legal procedure for ensuring that their finances stay separate while they raise the baby together, please let me know.  By the way, this is all happening in California -- I know some of these laws vary from state to state.

If you must, feel free to comment on how short-sighted she must be, etc.  But don't expect that to make a positive difference.

Tags: legal, problem, vexing

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What I know about CA is that not even married people are responsible for each other' credit card debts. And to get a joint bank account both spouses have to show up, show ID and sign on the dotted line. On a personal level, this woman may feel so sympathetic to the guy's situation, if it really comes to he can't pay his half of the rent or food, she may unwittingly, (or even wittingly) become his safety net. It's something she'll have to think about before the time comes.

She is stuck, she married him.


She didn't marry him.

Good to see you, Danny.

The bottom line is, as long as your friend doesn't marry the guy OR enter into any debt agreements with him (co-signing a credit card or loan or mortgage, etc.) she has no legal responsibility for his debts or for his child.

They both will be responsible for parental support of their mutual child, of course.

California doesn't recognize common law marriage (unless the CL marriage originated in another state which recognizes it, and the couple then moved to CA), so there wouldn't even be any problem with living together. Under the circumstance, however, it might be a better idea to maintain separate homes anyway...

There have been rare palimony cases in California, but those only happen in situations in which there's a vast difference in wealth and there has been a promise of lifelong support between partners. Doesn't sound like that would apply here.

(A lawyer friend concurs with what I've said; but, it would be wisest for your friend to consult a lawyer where she lives. If money's an issue, there's always legal aid.)

Hi Danny! I'm no expert, but I agree with Westerly and Angharad. Not married equals separate money. I think the question boils down to what does she do, when he can't pull his share of expenses? She is the only one with the answer to that question. She may not have the answer right now, but it sounds like an answer that she is going to have to come up with one in the near future.

Very tough call, and I wouldn't want to be the one to have to make that decision. 

Thanks; good things to know.

She needs to stay out of Texas, since Texas has common law marriage.

Well, I wish I had good news to add about this situation, but I don't.

Too bad.   :-(




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