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Finance: The Family Budget

What do you do when a couple is separating but only one of them has a grasp about finances?  How do you manage the emerging reality that, not only will the same money now have to fund two households but that only one of the parties has a clue about how to fiscally run a household at all? How can you move forward when only one party comprehends and can work with the family budget?

We have handled scores of cases in which one spouse was a spendthrift and the other constantly paid the penalty.  In many of these cases, the spendthrift used their income for themselves, leaving their spouse to shoulder the entirety of the family's finances.  The spendthrift never balanced a budget, never worried about keeping the lights on or paying the mortgage and often went so far as to run up significant debt requiring the responsible spouse to periodically rescue them from their financial mis-deeds. 

Often it seems that the spendthrift spouse is not pleasant to the responsible spouse, thereby ensuring an invevitable moment when the camel's back is broken by the one straw too many. That's when I get involved.

At some point, the spendthrift spouse finally sees the financial brick wall rapidly rising up to meet them.  Sometimes it isn't until after the last song is sung. Whenever it happens, it isn't a pretty moment.  And the years of selfish spending and arrogant forced dependence upon the responsible spouse doesn't yield remorse or cries of mercy. It always yields hostility, entitlement, cruely and some measure of psychosis.

It is the quintessential moment, "But Rhet, if you leave, where will I go, what will I do?"  "Frankly, my dear, I don't give a damn."  No one has ever said it better.

Yet that beat goes on.

Michael Manely

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