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Held hostage in the dream house

CallingSpades posted 6/4/2020 22:39 PM

Hi all, I could use some words of wisdom/your experiences to help me deal with this situation. Sorry, I think this is going to be a long one.

Quick summary - I'm 12 months from DDay, and I filed in January after a few months of unsatisfactory attempt at R. WH is overseas for a job (our family was supposed to have moved with him, but hello DDay) so we're in S since Aug '19. WH's overseas job is through Aug 2021.

I and our two young sons are living in the jointly owned home. WH continues to pay the mortgage and all utilities. He also gets a stipend for housing as long as we remain married, a few thousand a month on top of his free apartment. He initially said he would finalize our D after one year of S, but now plans to drag it out to two years with the stipend as justification.

Of course I'm frustrated and want to move on with my life, but the problem right now is that I am in a financially precarious situation. I don't know what I'll get in support or from the division of assets, but I'm pretty sure I won't be able to afford this house. And according to my attorney, WH can come after me for debt because he's paying for everything.

WH claims he will continue to pay for everything, and I believe he THINKS he is sincere and wants to be seen as the "good guy." He is extremely offended that I would ever question him, but I have several problems with this: 1. He lied for a year about his A, even after I confronted him and cried, 2. Any time I ask for anything that he hasn't already anticipated, like to repair the leaky roof, he is a huge asshole even though he pays for it in the end and 3. He is dragging out the divorce after saying he would not. Now he's angry about the D, making accusations about me keeping the kids from him (I'm not), me having a boyfriend (I don't even want one), etc. so I have no illusions about him being more honest with me now than in our M (so much lying by omission).

So what I think he's going to do is hold my "debt" from the house over my head to make me agree to less in the D settlement. In addition to just wanting to rip off the band-aid and move into a smaller place now, I will NOT be coerced. I know from experience that WH considers his investments and retirement his personal property, to be used for his family as he sees fit. I truly believe he will flip as soon as I try to touch his (substantial) retirement accounts.

So I don't want to sit here and rack up tens of thousands in debt, and I informed him that I was looking for another place. I said in order to be ok with staying here (what he wants me to do - for the kids, of course) I'd need an order of court stating that he would continue to pay for everything. I later amended this to add that it needs to extend beyond his return to the US (so I have time to find a place) and that it needs to state I owe him no debt for this... But here's his reaction, before I added those last items:

He called his attorney and they decided that, instead of simply giving me the reassurance I was asking for, they would just order me to maintain the jointly owned property. He sees my looking to move as a "threat" (how? He doesn't even live here anymore and doesn't want to fix the leaky roof). Turns out when his attorney emailed mine, there was no ordering involved, just a series of objections for the record. But WH told me that if I moved, he'd prevent the sale of the big house, and I'd be on my own financially if I chose to live elsewhere. Talk about threats...

The stupid thing about all of this is that we shouldn't even be in this house. We were all supposed to move overseas last Aug. If the move is for a career opportunity for WH, it's fine to uproot the kids from their home, neighbor best friends, school, only cousin, and grandparents who moved to be here with them, and basically everything the kids have ever known to ask me to leave my support network and the cushy 30-hr/week professional job I love. But if the move is for my own financial security, it's unacceptable to move the kids 5 minutes down the road. The double standard, patronizing attitude, and control issues make me just puke. I don't think WH has NPD but TELL me this doesn't all smack of narcissism.

Anyway this big house/neighborhood really IS great for the kids. It's too much for just me to maintain, but I'm more than willing to deal with that, as long as I have reassurance that I'm not going to be declaring bankruptcy after the divorce settlement.

I guess right now I'm just reassuring myself that I am doing the right thing. I'm reviewing how, if he really only wants the best for the kids, he could have just given me the agreement I asked for. Instead he showed his true colors and went with trying to force me into doing what he wanted, and force me to rely on his largesse, and threaten to not support me. I read that as, "you WILL acknowledge that I am a Good Guy, or else!"....which is consistent with the attitude that tanked R for me.

So SI: am I crazy to blow up my free ride here in the Barbie dream house, and stir up trouble because of fears about what WH might hold against me in the future? I'm waiting to hear from the attorneys, but if there's no movement on the court order/agreement I asked for, I've poked the bear and basically backed myself into a corner, to mix metaphors. I'll have to downsize pretty quickly, because if he wasn't going to hold that debt against me before, he sure as hell will now.

Oh, and during this ego cage match, I lost the townhouse i wanted in the neighborhood that I've been Zillow-stalking. It was tiny but perfect, and even painted the sunny yellow I looooove. So I'm just sick right now.

So waddaya think? Any comments/stories help. Tell me if I'm a crazy B. Seriously, because my IC refuses to say it, and it will help me going forward.

Edited for autocorrect typos.

[This message edited by CallingSpades at 8:47 AM, June 5th, 2020 (Friday)]

Anna123 posted 6/5/2020 11:24 AM

I would recommend quietly consulting with a second lawyer just in case they have a different take on this. "He" is paying with marital money for the home HIS CHILDREN are living in. I am not sure I guess how is this debt to him for you? (other than in his mind)

[This message edited by Anna123 at 11:25 AM, June 5th (Friday)]

CallingSpades posted 6/5/2020 12:08 PM

Anna, that's a good idea I hadn't thought of. I love the way you put this:

"He" is paying with marital money

The way the debt thing came up with my attorney: we have a temporary support agreement in which we're each assigned a certain % responsibility for expenses. WH was mad about how high his obligation was, so in the final agreement he's going to be looking to rectify the situation. I asked my attorney if WH could demand I pay my % for the mortgage/utilities, even though the person who did the support agreement counted his paying the mortgage into his obligation. Attorney said, that would be better than his sueing for debt and asking for 100% of the expenses reimbursed. I was dumbfounded. Like, in what world would that be legal?

So maybe a second opinion is in order, lon the likelihood of whether WH would be successful in such an effort.

[This message edited by CallingSpades at 12:11 PM, June 5th, 2020 (Friday)]

Tigersrule77 posted 6/5/2020 13:33 PM

You may also ask your attorney to clarify the "debt" issue. It seems that you don't clearly understand what the attorney meant. Maybe you do, and I'm misunderstanding you. (Meaning, please don't be offended, as you have a professional career and manage your home by yourself, I'm sure you're intelligent.) In my opinion, the law can be confusing and sometimes stupid, i.e. no-fault D in cases of infidelity.

A second opinion from a lawyer is a good idea. I'm not sure how far along you are in the process, but if you aren't sure about your attorney, the earlier you switch horses, the better.

CallingSpades posted 6/5/2020 14:03 PM

Thanks, tigers. No offense taken! Trust me, I filed a complaint for support on my own, but divorce law is way too complicated for me to be comfortable with saying I understand it. I really feel for those who have to go through this without counsel.

And it's looking like a second consult is in order anyways.

Anna123 posted 6/5/2020 14:42 PM

we have a temporary support agreement

That clears it up. But it was already a legal agreement. It sounds more to me like something he would try to use as an argument, the same way you can argue back that you are being forced to live there because he demanded his children stay in that home. Not to go down a rabbit hole here but if you have any emails or texts of him saying those kinds of things it wouldn't hurt to have in your arsenal. I still think him suing you after because he doesn't like the support aggreement sounds unlikely, but I am no legal expert.

He called his attorney and they decided that, instead of simply giving me the reassurance I was asking for, they would just order me to maintain the jointly owned property. He sees my looking to move as a "threat" (how? He doesn't even live here anymore and doesn't want to fix the leaky roof). Turns out when his attorney emailed mine, there was no ordering involved, just a series of objections for the record. But WH told me that if I moved, he'd prevent the sale of the big house, and I'd be on my own financially if I chose to live elsewhere. Talk about threats...

I would think having a record of this would protect you also, but still would be good to get a second legal opinion. I completely understand you not being comfortable until you get this sorted.

CallingSpades posted 6/5/2020 15:04 PM

I completely understand you not being comfortable until you get this sorted.

Yup, you nailed it... I'm waiting for the attorneys to figure it out, don't have a complete understanding of the law/precedent, and it's too expensive to call the law office for an update just because I won't be able to sleep all weekend!

I'm writing down everything that I still have questions about and will call the attorney next week if it's not completely clear what my options/risks are I'll be attorney shopping. Ugh I don't have time to obsess about this, or to start over with another law office, but here we are...

nekonamida posted 6/5/2020 16:08 PM

Sounds like you've got it covered from a legal standpoint. From an emotional perspective, I think you're incredibly smart to bite the bullet and attempt to separate now rather than later. Who knows what your WH will do given enough time. Hide money, withdraw everything from his retirement account, try to sell the house out from under you for his own convenience. It's not worth waiting around to find out just because he's being somewhat reasonable today. He has proven that he can and will turn on a dime. It's not safe to stay vulnerable by relying on his money and good will.

Ratpicker posted 6/5/2020 20:55 PM

CallingSpades, writing down the issues you want to address with your attorney is a good idea. I did that. Wrote it, re-wrote it, trying to get it as concise as possible. I numbered each issue and left space for notes. For my appointment I gave the attorney a copy of my issues list, took notes on mine. It seemed to help keep my costs down as the attorney kept his copy with his notes and it refreshed his memory of my concerns for future reference.

Document, document & document. Getting a second opinion isn't a bad idea either, if it puts your mind at ease.

Phoenix1 posted 6/5/2020 22:28 PM

I'm not clear how your "debt" can be used to coerce you. There are marital assets and marital debt, and it is all potentially subject to division. You are entitled to half the equity of the house, regardless of who is paying the mortgage. He earns more and gets a housing allowance so it is assumed he would pay more of the living expenses.

All assets and debts are subject to negotiation and settlement (some inheritance is exempt). It sounds like he is just trying to bully you, and you need a new lawyer.

Start compiling documents of ALL assets and debts - bank accounts, credit cards, pensions, mortgage, investments, etc. A good attorney will need this to determine strategy.

If you can move in with a family member for the time being, you can save money to look for a new place. Then sell the dream house (with STBX's agreement, of course), or tell him to buy you out of your equity. No roof repairs? Then house sells for less.

The fact that he's been paying the mortgage is kind of a "sucks to be you" type thing. He was putting a roof over his kids' heads. That isn't "largesse," that's supporting his kids at a level of his own choosing.

Of course, laws vary by state, but he can't hold you hostage. It might sting financially in the initial phase of change, but that's why you need a good attorney that is going to fight for what you are legally entitled to. He doesn't get to call the shots here.

CallingSpades posted 6/5/2020 22:54 PM

Thank you, Phoenix. That's exactly how I feel: bullied. But your words are encouraging, especially

He doesn't get to call the shots here.
That fact seems to have him lashing out.

I actually considered moving in with my mom, but thought that would just be moving from one temporary situation to another, and WH would surely see it as an intentional insult, which would result in a more contentious divorce (trying to do collaborative divorce). Although I seem to be driving things down that path of contention anyway...

CallingSpades posted 6/5/2020 23:07 PM

On reading all of your comments, I'm leaning toward thinking that this is not a real risk to me. It's a bullying tactic and nothing more.

I just wrote myself a note that boiled down to, hey, I'm trying to save money here. Apparently WH has plenty of extra lying around to throw at a big mortgage, despite his response to his support obligation ("I have to live, too!" Seriously, he said that). So if he claims I owe him for money he spent on his family during S, or balks at my requested % during asset division - after this whole well-documented row about the house, he really doesn't have a leg to stand on.

Anna123 posted 6/5/2020 23:10 PM

Although I seem to be driving things down that path of contention anyway.

From my viewpoint, he is the one driving things down that path by dragging this out and insisting you stay when you wish to move forward, yet when you offer to stay, he will not sign something spelling out that agreement clearly. I am thinking the collaborative route probably won't work out unfortunately.

Phoenix1 posted 6/6/2020 01:10 AM

Collaborative divorce requires two people willing to actually, well, collaborate. HIS version is "do it my way, or else." You can't collaborate with that. Get a bulldog attorney and fight for what you are entitled to. When entering negotiations, the first volley is to ask for the moon and the stars because you can always negotiate down, rarely up.

Moving in with your mom, while temporary, can give you some breathing room to regroup. Takes pressure off of settling for a new home you may not be really enthused with. More importantly, it gets you out of "dream house hostage."

Then tell STBX-wingnut very nonchalantly that it's fine if he doesn't want to repair the roof. That just means it will sell at a lower amount and reduce the equity subject to division. In other words, take the power out of his words over you.

Ultimately, get that bulldog attorney and let them handle it. Let STBX-wingnut squirm overseas wondering how hard he's going to be hit.

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