WTF Friday: Should I stay on the family plan with my ex?



In this weekly feature I answer your personal finance questions.

Dear Emma, WTF?!

My soon-to-be ex-husband and I are finalizing our post-marital finances. He’s pushing to continue to take advantages of all the monetary efficiencies that married couples enjoy: Continuing our family cell phone plan, finagling a way to maximize the childcare tax credit, lying about our addresses to get a better car insurance rate, etc. In theory, these moves make intellectual sense to me, but the reality is that all this orchestrating means that a) we will have to continue to interact regularly about money — one of the sorest spots in our marriage, and b) he is unreliable when it comes to taking care of things like paying bills, so all these processes will likely create more fighting and tension and c) all this accounting just means more of him — and I’m done with him!

The thought of continuing to deal with him like this stresses me out, but at the moment money is very tight — and that is also very stressful. I can’t figure out which is worse. What do you say?

Broke in Brookline

Dear Broke,

Like in all of life’s pickles, we know the answer, but sometimes we need some help trusting that voice of reason. Here is the answer in your letter: “all this accounting just means more of him — and I’m done with him!”

The thing about money is it isn’t about money. You can always make more money. But you can’t get back time, and you can’t undo the damage that stress wreaks on your psyche, body and life. You are divorcing because you want a life separate from this man. And while you will continue to be involved through the kids, you need to take steps to start your own life anew as much as possible. You will pay a financial price for your mental and emotional freedom. Consider it an investment.

The premium for having an independent cell phone plan? Maybe $50 per month.

The price for legitimately filing your taxes separately? In the thousands annually.

Ponying up for your own car insurance? An extra hundred or two monthly.

Sitting down at the end of the month to pay your bills, looking at your accounts and knowing that you have full control over those funds — and by default, your life? Priceless.

Emma Johnson is a veteran money writer, noted blogger, bestselling author and an host of the award-winning podcast, Like a Mother with Emma Johnson. A former Associated Press Financial Wire reporter and MSN Money columnist, Emma has written for the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Forbes, Glamour,, REAL SIMPLE, Parenting, USA Today and others.

The Kickass Single Mom: Be Financially Independent, Discover Your Sexiest Self, and Raise Fabulous, Happy Children (Penguin, 2017), was a #1 bestseller and was featured in hundreds of media, including The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Fox & Friends, and the New York Post, which named it to its ‘Must Read” list.

Her popular blog, and podcast Like a Mother, explore issues facing professional single moms: business and career, money, sex, relationships and parenting. Emma regularly comments on these topics for outlets such as CNN, Headline News, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Fox & Friends, CNBC, NPR, TIME, MONEY, O, The Oprah Magazine, Woman’s Day, The Doctors, and many more. She was named Parents magazine’s “Best of the Web,” one of “20 Personal Finance Influencers to Follow on Twitter” by AOL DailyFinance, “Top 15 Personal Finance Podcasts” by U.S. News, and “Most Eligible New Yorkers” by New York Observer.

A popular speaker on gender equality, Emma presented at the United Nations Summit for Gender Equality.

Emma grew up in Sycamore, Ill., and lives in New York City with her children.

7 thoughts on “WTF Friday: Should I stay on the family plan with my ex?

  1. Companies now investigate the beneficiaries listed on employees’ health-insurance policies to cull ineligible dependents, one of the ways’ that they’re trying to curb the rising cost of premiums. When I reported on this several years ago, I heard stories from HR managers about employees who’d illegally kept their ex-spouses on their health insurance for years – decades! So even if someone wanted to or agreed to stay on their ex’s policy because it was cheaper, they could get busted.


  2. Wow. If finances are the main reason you ended your marriage then why would you keep that difficult part going?

    My marriage ended because of money (always money for a new snowmobile, never any to fix the roof) and now, because of the children it is still somewhat intertwined.

    We each get to deduct a portion of the childrens’ university fees but I insist the accountant that we both use deal with all of it. The accoutant keeps everything straight and fair and contact is avoided.

    The accountant also means that the children and I can file our tax returns and their father can be late, as usual, and it doesn’t affect us.

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