When a relationship is unraveling, and you no longer feel safe or that you can trust your partner, you need to stop listening to the empty promises that person keeps making and start taking some measures to protect yourself. What does this look like? Here are just a few examples:
Separate Your Bank Accounts
If each month, you keep depositing your entire paycheck into a joint account, and each month that money disappears in ways you simply cannot fathom or don’t agree with, then perhaps it is time to stop putting all your money into one account. Set up your own separate account, and then only deposit into the joint account what you think is necessary to pay truly joint expenses, and if that still doesn’t solve the problem, then pay your share of the joint expenses directly to the providers and stop using a joint account.
No Joint Credit Cards
If the joint credit card bills are out of control, then maybe it’s time to reduce the spending limits, close or freeze those accounts (usually you can’t close it until the balance is paid off), or take someone off if s/he is just as an authorized user. When you have a joint credit card, what’s to stop someone from racking up debt you don’t agree to and then having them stick you with the bill? You need to protect your credit, and unless someone is a minor, there’s really no need for you to let another person borrow on your credit.
If someone fails to save enough to cover their tax debt, there is no reason you need to take this on as your problem. Married couples can and do often file separately, and you should check with a CPA about the pros/cons of filing jointly before you commit to being on the hook with Uncle Sam for someone else’s tax debt.
Travel & Entertainment
Were you planning on taking a trip together, but now you learn that your partner doesn’t have any money to contribute to this joint adventure? Well, maybe you need to postpone the trip until s/he saves enough to cover part of the expenses you thought would be joint. As kids, we all had to finish our homework before we could go outside and play, right? Same rules should apply as grown-ups– can’t sign up for expensive outings until you know you can afford them.
Are you on a lease or contract together? Time to find out what the penalties are if you need to break that agreement. As embarrassing as it may be, sometimes telling your landlord your sob story might win you some leniency. This is less likely to be the case if you co-signed on a loan for something like a house or car. Sadly, you are probably stuck with that debt until the asset is sold or the loan is paid off. Having your name on the title is key, and learning about your legal rights and financial obligations asap is a must so you can figure out your best options.
If there is one thing to remember, it is this: timing is of the essence. When you feel like you are sleeping with the enemy, you have to move fast in order to avert disaster. Why is this so? Well, because sadly some people truly believe that desperate times call for desperate measures– as in anything goes, even highly unethical or potentially (if not outright) illegal moves that they feel are necessary to save their own skin.
Some people will try to raid a joint account, max out the credit cards, have you take on their tax liability, make you pay for all their fun while they work on getting out of all their outstanding obligations, and with no remorse whatsoever even cancel your medical insurance without telling you, and then arrange for the notices to go to them. They will steal insurance reimbursement checks for out of service providers, and somehow think they won’t get busted. They will stop at nothing, and know no mercy. It doesn’t matter how much you did for them in the past, their only thought is “what have you done for me lately?”
I wish I could say that in each and every instance justice prevails in our court system, but that’s sadly not the case– mainly because ours is a slow process that not everyone can afford, and that is why it is important to act quickly and protect yourself, without ever crossing over into that dark realm reserved for anti-social miscreants, who will no doubt find there is a special place in hell for them.
Be smart, and recognize when desperate times call for desperate measures, but always within reason.
By Regina A. DeMeo, Esq.