The Moneyist: My soon-to-be ex-wife received $8K in unemployment — and spent it. How can I stop her from getting her hands on my money?


Dear Quentin,

I’ve been paying every bill in my household for the past seven years. During that time, my wife either wasn’t working or only had spotty part-time jobs. She does have a disability, but it doesn’t stop her from working; it just means that she moves slower. I’ve never been able to depend on her to help with finances or regular household stuff, and I mostly ended up doing it myself.

She quit her job last March due to COVID-19 concerns. We didn’t think she would be eligible for unemployment as she voluntarily quit her job, but it turns out that she qualified after all. I didn’t know how much she was receiving. I just found out that she collected $8,000 in unemployment payouts. I didn’t know it was that much — and the money had already been spent.

“‘I asked her what she could have possibly spent $8,000 on without anything to show for it, especially since she didn’t offer me a penny toward any of the bills for the household.’”

I asked her what she could have possibly spent $8,000 on without anything to show for it, especially since she didn’t offer me a penny toward any of the bills for the household. All she can say is, “I don’t know.”

We are heading to divorce court and I would like to introduce evidence of her financial recklessness, because I do not want to give over a large sum of money to someone who is simply going to waste it. Furthermore, I know that she will be receiving another lump sum of cash soon, and that she doesn’t have plans to help with any of the bills with that either.

Is there any way that I can legally protect my own financial resources such as 401(k), personal savings and so on, so that I can retain much of what I have earned if I can demonstrate that she has a track record of financial malfeasance?

Furious Soon-To-Be Ex-Husband

You can email The Moneyist with any financial and ethical questions related to coronavirus at [email protected], and follow Quentin Fottrell on Twitter.

Dear Husband, 

Your marriage is coming to an end, and your wife — for better or for worse — chose to spend the $8,000 on herself, or store it in a place where you have no access to it. Hiding money is frowned upon by a divorce court. If she can’t account for where it went, she may have questions to answer during your divorce proceedings. 

She could be asked to reimburse money if you did bring a successful claim during your divorce that said your wife wasted community funds. Wasteful spending could involve secret or extravagant vacations, money spent on an extramarital affair, and transferring/hiding assets prior to a divorce or legal separation. 

A divorce judge can subpoena financial records to determine whether funds were spent recklessly for non-marital purposes or this took place during the breakdown of the marriage, thereby suggesting that one party was trying to squander marital property. The court would then take this into account when dividing the assets. 

What’s more, if she is to receive another lump sum and it’s not an inheritance, that would likely be considered community property prior to your divorce. The argument for the judge is almost like “she has a check in her hands, but has not cashed it,” says Randall Kessler, a divorce attorney based in Atlanta, Ga. 

As to your last question regarding your 401(k) and other retirement accounts, you cannot use your wife’s alleged profligate behavior to undermine community-property laws in your state, regardless of how unfair you believe them to be. “Generally, judges focus on what is, not what was,” Kessler says.

“It may make sense to plead with the court that there should have been an extra $8,000 to divide, and ask the court to deduct $8,000 from her share of whatever the final award is,” he adds. “And if you can find proof of future funds coming to her, that may help convince the judge to allow you to keep more to offset that.”

In the meantime, good luck with your divorce, your new life and finding a happy balance in your settlement that allows you to move on. 

By emailing your questions, you agree to having them published anonymously on MarketWatch. By submitting your story to Dow Jones & Company, the publisher of MarketWatch, you understand and agree that we may use your story, or versions of it, in all media and platforms, including via third parties.

Check out the Moneyist private Facebook group, where we look for answers to life’s thorniest money issues. Readers write in to me with all sorts of dilemmas. Post your questions, tell me what you want to know more about, or weigh in on the latest Moneyist columns.

The Moneyist regrets he cannot reply to questions individually.

More from Quentin Fottrell:

‘I just don’t trust my sister’: How do I gift money to my nieces without their mother having access to it?
We’re getting married and have a baby on the way. My wife has offered to pay off my $10,000 student debt and $7,500 car loan
I have three children. I quitclaimed my house to my most responsible son. Now he has blocked my calls
My brother-in-law died, leaving his house in a mess. His landlord wants me to repaint and replace the carpet. What should we do?

The Wall Street Journal: Pfizer’s COVID vaccine for kids might not get FDA approval until November

Previous article

The Wall Street Journal: United Airlines moving to fire nearly 600 workers who refuse to get vaccinated

Next article

You may also like


Leave a reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

More in News