WTF Friday: How can I make my ex be financially responsible?


In this weekly feature I answer your personal finance questions.

Dear Emma, WTF?!

When my husband and I separated six months ago, one of the main reasons was money – he spent way more than we made. I like to live by a budget and truly enjoy the things I have. Excess and waste stress me out.  Time and again I would cover his spending sprees and constant piddling away of funds.

Now that the separation agreement has been signed, it’s no surprise that he rarely meets his child support obligations – checks are late if they come at all. He was clueless about the fact that our new two-household situation requires even more money than before. Imagine my surprise and frustration when the kids constantly come home from his visits with expensive new clothes, toys and tales of trips to amusement parks and restaurants – all while I struggle to make ends meet.

On the few occasions my ex and I have had civilized discussions recently, he’s confessed that he’s borrowed from his 401(k) to cover expenses and is running up credit card bills. I tried to help him understand why this is a bad idea, but he won’t listen. How can I make him come to his senses?

Fuming in Farmingdale, Mich.


Dear Fumes,You have three issues:

  1. Your ex owes you money. He has a legal – say nothing of moral – obligation to pay child support. You have a moral obligation to take him to court and enforce every measure at your disposal to make him pay up. You may not get it, but your children deserve to have the necessities and luxuries that that money would afford them – including a mother who is not stressed and resentful for having to unnecessarily shoulder the financial burden of raising kids alone.

  2. You’re mommying him. He is an adult – one without a wife now. The only person who can save his financial future is himself. There are dozens of books on enabling and co-dependency. Read them.

  3. You must accept that you’re on your own. He is a child. One who puts toys and vacations above food and shelter – for his children. Maybe he will come to Jesus and pay child support and form an investing club with his golf buddies. Or maybe he will continue to be a dufus. You can’t control him. But you can find a way to control your financial future – and that of your family.

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