Author Topic: I'll be the second wife. What should I ask the lawyer?  (Read 5433 times)

pasadena

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I'll be the second wife. What should I ask the lawyer?
« on: August 31, 2015, 05:47:12 PM »
Burner account time! My SO and I have started to explore the logistics of getting married. This will be his second. His ex is bipolar, has a gambling addiction, is fairly vindictive, and has a wealthy family to pay for lawyers. (Yeah, yeah, there is normally a 50% chance my SO was the crazy one... but I've seen enough to be sure here.) My SO thought we would just dump everything in joint accounts like he did with his first marriage, and it'll be sunshine and butterflies since I am (so far) not totally crazy. I've made it clear that I am not comfortable combining any money in any way until we figure out how to protect my assets. He's recently come around to the idea of seeing a lawyer, possibly because he realizes this is non-negotiable.

His NW: -30K (underwater house)
My NW: 200K (overwater house)
My income is roughly 2.5x his on paper, but he takes home about 50% more because of untaxed BAH and no income tax.

It might be safer to stay unmarried, but there is a huge financial incentive because of the military. So help me cover our butts here - when we see the lawyer man, what should we ask?
I'm looking for QUESTIONS, not answers!

Child support:
- what can trigger a recalculation?
- under what circumstances could the ex ask for my income to be considered? (e.g., if he gets out of the military and is stuck in clearance limbo for a while, and I provide for him.)
- how is CS recalculated and how much does it cost to do this? CA calculated child support based on his take home, so there's a good chance he won't be able to afford his current child support on a civilian income.
- will his disability pay be up for grabs? retirement pay? how does her allotment of his pension factor into this?

Alimony:
- same questions as child support. Alimony will end before he retires.

Assets:
- cash/bank deposits. Do we make things joint? Keep them separate? How bad is it if the joint/separate accounts get cross-contaminated a time or two? How careful must we be?
- houses. If we do separate finances, can one of us pay rent to the other? If sharing one rent/mortgage significantly lowers his housing expense, could the ex go after the 'extra' money in his budget?
- retirement funds. These were not considered in divorce because he had almost nothing in TSP and she got some of the military pension. If he contributes to TSP now, could it be up for grabs in the future?

Kids:
- what defense is there against the ex doing something ridiculous with unnecessary medical expenses? his son is on Tricare but she sometimes refuses to use the insurance and then claims that he needs to pay half. She and her other child are uninsured.
- when ex-wife's other child comes to visit, how can we best deal with medical liability?
- what is my/our legal risk for kids' issues? e.g. if one of the kids becomes a teenager and decides they hate me (understandable, really), and tells their mom that I hit them or something, what kind of special hell does that lead us to? I said some weird/terrible things when I was a teenager and I see them growing into that phase.
- if he dies, how does he protect the kids' interests from me? How does he protect me from his ex-wife suing on behalf of his kid?

What am I missing?
« Last Edit: August 31, 2015, 08:53:36 PM by pasadena »

MoonShadow

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Re: I'll be the second wife. What should I ask the lawyer?
« Reply #1 on: August 31, 2015, 06:00:53 PM »
Ask about your independently owned real estate.  You have stated that you both already owned your homes, ask if that would be a defense for yourself against the crazy ex, if you sold one and moved into the other.  I suspect that if SO moves in with yourself, but never has his name put onto the title or mortgage documents, your home is untouchable.  However, that is almost certainly not the case if you move into his, or if you sell both and move into another home with both of you on the documents.

MoonShadow

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Re: I'll be the second wife. What should I ask the lawyer?
« Reply #2 on: August 31, 2015, 06:17:32 PM »
I need to stop reading about the FLDS, because I was totally imagining a sister wives scenario here.

Typically the sister-wives at least get along.

Cathy

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Re: I'll be the second wife. What should I ask the lawyer?
« Reply #3 on: August 31, 2015, 06:20:28 PM »
...So help me cover our butts here - when we see the lawyer man, what should we ask?...

The two of you need to each retain your own independent lawyer. Although the exact rules vary by jurisdiction, these kind of agreements are less likely to be enforced if only one of you had a lawyer, or if you were both represented by the same lawyer. If you are serious about the agreement being enforceable, you should have separate counsel.

La Bibliotecaria Feroz

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Re: I'll be the second wife. What should I ask the lawyer?
« Reply #4 on: August 31, 2015, 06:23:52 PM »
Are you wanting to protect your assets from his ex-wife, or from him? If it's the latter, then no matter how you spin it, what you are really saying is that you don't trust him not to steal from you if the shit hits the fan.

You are scared of his children.

You don't really want to get married, and your better judgment would tell you not to, but the military would make it worth your while.

I'm sorry if I seem cynical, but I'm not seeing a happy ever after here.


hoodedfalcon

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Re: I'll be the second wife. What should I ask the lawyer?
« Reply #5 on: August 31, 2015, 06:36:49 PM »
I don't have anything to add at the moment. Posting to follow!

pasadena

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Re: I'll be the second wife. What should I ask the lawyer?
« Reply #6 on: August 31, 2015, 06:54:12 PM »
Are you wanting to protect your assets from his ex-wife, or from him? If it's the latter, then no matter how you spin it, what you are really saying is that you don't trust him not to steal from you if the shit hits the fan.

From his ex-wife. If shit hits fan, I trust us both. If not for the ex, I'd be fine combining everything.

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You are scared of his children.

You might be right. We're talking to a couples therapist about some kid-related things already. I get along mostly great with both kids, but I am scared of what might come if my SO's ex were to object to anything I did around them or my interactions with them. There are several documented events where his ex tried to blackmail him with the kids (saying she would claim he did something to them, or that he would never see them again or they wouldn't get medical treatment if he didn't send extra money), and it took lots of lawyer-hours to make her stop. It really shook him up.

Quote
You don't really want to get married, and your better judgment would tell you not to, but the military would make it worth your while.

I'm sorry if I seem cynical, but I'm not seeing a happy ever after here.

Again, you might be right. It can be hard to tell, with the incentives and pressures added by the military. We both would like to get married, but as we iron out the logistics, we will understand more. I love him but have no fairy-tale notions of marriage.

pasadena

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Re: I'll be the second wife. What should I ask the lawyer?
« Reply #7 on: August 31, 2015, 06:57:22 PM »
...So help me cover our butts here - when we see the lawyer man, what should we ask?...

The two of you need to each retain your own independent lawyer. Although the exact rules vary by jurisdiction, these kind of agreements are less likely to be enforced if only one of you had a lawyer, or if you were both represented by the same lawyer. If you are serious about the agreement being enforceable, you should have separate counsel.

Wow... yes, I did miss that. If the first lawyer doesn't point that out, we'll find another :)

pasadena

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Re: I'll be the second wife. What should I ask the lawyer?
« Reply #8 on: August 31, 2015, 07:01:22 PM »
I need to stop reading about the FLDS, because I was totally imagining a sister wives scenario here.

I didn't think about that when I picked a title - sorry the thread wasn't all you dreamed it would be :)

Letj

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Re: I'll be the second wife. What should I ask the lawyer?
« Reply #9 on: August 31, 2015, 07:11:32 PM »
Why do you want to marry a man with an ex wife and children in the mix. Generally a very complicated scenario and the step-mother is usually the evil witch. Do you have children of your own?

Dee18

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Re: I'll be the second wife. What should I ask the lawyer?
« Reply #10 on: August 31, 2015, 07:14:13 PM »
You absolutely need your own lawyer, for many reasons, and be sure you get a good one.  Take your time to find one.  In your situation, I would get a prenup to protect your current assets.  I would also keep  a separate bank account.  You could each have one and then a joint one you both fund to handle household expenses.  If things go smoothly for a few years you could then combine everything.  He may be the greatest guy ever, but if he feels his kids are in danger he may feel he has to put them first.

Have you seen the documents regarding alimony and child support?  Is he planning to pay for their college?  Is he planning for you to help pay for their college?  A good lawyer will help you think of issues that might arise, such as your inheriting money.

pbkmaine

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Re: I'll be the second wife. What should I ask the lawyer?
« Reply #11 on: August 31, 2015, 07:29:36 PM »
Second wife here. DH had kids from first and an ex who wanted everything.   Fortunately, I was a financial planner at the time and am very rational with money. I read all the documents to make sure I fully understood everything before we married. We did not have a prenup, but I would recommend one anyway. We kept money separate for a long time. The secret to success for me: I kept out of it. I did not deal with the ex or the kids at all. He had a separate phone line. I did not answer it. I was nice to the kids when they came over. I welcomed them. But I never tried to be a mom. I didn't want to be, I was not cut out for it and told them so. They were relieved. Twenty years on, they have told me that they think of me as an aunt, which is exactly how I feel. The grandkids (there are five now) love me. So many of my friends screwed up, I think, by getting too involved and having the kids and the ex resent it.

pasadena

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Re: I'll be the second wife. What should I ask the lawyer?
« Reply #12 on: August 31, 2015, 07:47:29 PM »
He may be the greatest guy ever, but if he feels his kids are in danger he may feel he has to put them first.
This resonates with me. Maybe I can suggest keeping things separate until support ends. A solution like that might bypass a lot of my concerns, and we can change the arrangement later. Thanks, MMM forum! Giving me new ideas.

Quote
Have you seen the documents regarding alimony and child support?  Is he planning to pay for their college?  Is he planning for you to help pay for their college?  A good lawyer will help you think of issues that might arise, such as your inheriting money.

Documents: yes. But I am not a lawyer, so I'll need a real lawyer to take a look. We have discussed college since one of the kids is in HS now. Inheritance, we know we are clueless and need to ask a pro. Apparently multiple pros.

pasadena

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Re: I'll be the second wife. What should I ask the lawyer?
« Reply #13 on: August 31, 2015, 08:43:12 PM »
Second wife here. DH had kids from first and an ex who wanted everything.   Fortunately, I was a financial planner at the time and am very rational with money. I read all the documents to make sure I fully understood everything before we married. We did not have a prenup, but I would recommend one anyway. We kept money separate for a long time. The secret to success for me: I kept out of it. I did not deal with the ex or the kids at all. He had a separate phone line. I did not answer it. I was nice to the kids when they came over. I welcomed them. But I never tried to be a mom. I didn't want to be, I was not cut out for it and told them so. They were relieved. Twenty years on, they have told me that they think of me as an aunt, which is exactly how I feel. The grandkids (there are five now) love me. So many of my friends screwed up, I think, by getting too involved and having the kids and the ex resent it.

Bingo! This is what I hope for. I want kids and I like his kids, but his kids are not mine and I am not their mother. They already have a mother. They come here to spend time with their dad. It's been a few years already and we get along great most of the time (it was all the time, but then teenagerhood hit and now it's a coin toss each day). I try to be just a person in the house. I have no authority beyond "this looks like a fun game, but can we please throw that medicine ball at the brick wall instead of the drywall?" This is both a life-saver and a source of tension, because I have to check with my SO for everything. But I seem to have avoided the evil stepmother trap so far. Fingers crossed.

2ndTimer

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Re: I'll be the second wife. What should I ask the lawyer?
« Reply #14 on: September 01, 2015, 10:52:29 AM »
Bravo to you for thinking about this now.  Smart people (like you) know that hope is not a plan.  Don't let anybody convince you not to follow up on this.  Insane family members (which you will have once you are married) can really torpedo the lifeboat.

MishMash

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Re: I'll be the second wife. What should I ask the lawyer?
« Reply #15 on: September 01, 2015, 01:46:13 PM »
Why hello twin!  You sound like me before I married my husband quite a few years ago and let me tell you his ex is CRAAAZY and extremely money hungry (I think she's on her 4th? husband now at 34, all military) and we've dealt with pretty much all of your story..right down to the military part.

Financial Incentive:

In regards to "huge financial incentive because of the military"  The only huge incentive is the health care, he's already claiming out BAH at the with dependents rate so that's one to think about.  Outside of the tax deduction (or in our case the marriage tax penalty) and the fact they move you when he moves when you get married there is NO financial incentive for him being married as it sounds like he already collects full BAH.


Child support and alimony:

you need someone WELL versed in this.  You ask what can trigger a modification to start?  Pretty much anything, either party can ask for one at any point in time.  To go through with the modification, there needs to be a change in the childs needs, medical, or the financial situation of either parent.  If she puts them in daycare it can go up, if he sees them less it can go up if he's still earning the same amount, every promotion, it can go up etc etc.  DHs X quit her job a week before she filed, and hasn't worked in 14 years since, just so that she can earn a bigger check from her baby daddies (my husband was the first, she remarried a week after the divorce was finalized and had another kid with that guy). 

CA is one of the most dickish states in the country for child support and alimony, and they seriously love to screw over service members from what we've seen.  We've had a friend that lost a chunk of BAH when they rotated out and CA took 2 years to have a child support adjustment hearing (he lived in our basement because between child support and alimony he couldn't afford rent since it was well over half his GROSS pay) and another that had alimony "extended" for their ex wife six months before support was due to stop, the ex claimed she still couldn't find employment...he paid alimony for EIGHT years at that point and she still couldn't find a job.  CA will always be where the modifications will be since that is where the kid lives.  He will have to fly out for any and all court hearings unless all parties can agree to a teleconference (his wife always refused since she knew it cost us thousands each time he had to go out)

Most states won't allow them to consider your income at all for child support and alimony payments, just like you can't consider her new flames in the calculations.  CA looks like they allow it in  "extraordinary" cases which are defined as unemployment, underemployment, income reduction, and/or other reliance upon a new spouse's income. In extraordinary instances, it must be proved that children would suffer extreme hardship without imputing income of the new spouse.  You really need to talk to a well respected lawyer to find out if you can be protected from that if you perhaps are a resident of a different state when you get married, would the CA law apply to you since you aren't a legal resident of the state at marriage?

In the child support agreement you really need to be careful with what is in the wording.   Make SURE there is something in there that covers his ass if he has to move across country for his next assignment, who will pay for travel, will he fly to the child and stay there or will the child be allowed to be flown as an accompanied minor?  Will child support be lowered to compensate for these costs?  What will the schedule be for visitation in the event of a large distance move?  Are there any time provisions for when he would have to file for a child support modification hearing in the event of losing a significant part of his salary if BAH is lowered?   It cost us a small fortune to duke these things out with the ex.

DO NOT put his name on your house, if you rent or sell your house and move in with him I'd honestly say do it before you marry, file your taxes for that year then get married in the new year and keep that money separate without any chance of it being tied to his name.

Retirement: 

She gets X portion of the RETIREMENT portion of his pay, Disability is protected by federal law.  In the past guys would try to up the disability rate to lower the retirement pension, that no longer works since the advent of concurrent receipt.  That said, there is nothing from stopping a judge from incorporating it into child support/alimony payments and it happens routinely.  Anything he contributes to the TSP now she can't touch, however if you are thinking of him contributing to the TSP to lower his income for child support calculations, it won't work, they simply add that back into his net pay. 

You also need to check and see if the Decree says anything about SBP, if he is required to maintain it for her then you are SOL on his pension annuity, if it doesn't say he has to maintain it with her as beneficiary he can name you to receive it upon his death (which would end her pension payments when he dies).  If he does have to maintain it, she will continue to receive that portion of the pension after his death and you would get nothing.  And remember, that pension payment is forever, he will NEVER ever ever be able to reclaim that portion of his retirement unless she dies...she could marry  7 other guys and she will still be entitled to it.  Same goes for if he has to maintain her or the child on his SGLI.

Kids:

Whelp wish I could help you on that one, we went through the same thing, she started going to out of network doctors just to piss him off (did I mention she's 150k in consumer debt at the moment, she just keeps putting this stuff on CC's).  It was in the decree that he had to pay 50% of non covered medical.  We fought this and finally won in the last modification that she needs to show cause since she's in network...so she moved farther away.  Now we just make things immensely difficult for her to get these payments.  We required certified receipts, and if she mails them snail mail we say we didn't get them, and then make her spend the 10 bucks doing certified mail.  To which we then send only to a registered post office box that we put her name on, that she has to go to the post office to sign for.  She's as lazy as they get so this went on for 5 months, cost her an arm and a leg for a 10 dollar script, and she gave up and started taking him to his in network providers again. 

The half sister and brother are not welcome at our house point blank.  Neither of us wants the liability and frankly daddy time is for him to spend time with his father, not his father to be distracted by another child.  This one is fairly easy since we've never lived in the same state.  In your case maybe invest in an umbrella policy?

We have a trust set up that his sister controls that has assets for his son (protection from me, my idea).  Everything else goes to me, she wouldn't be able to fight it since he left providing enough assets to cover a moderate amount of child support until the childs 18th bday (protection from her).
« Last Edit: September 01, 2015, 02:56:13 PM by MishMash »

Kris

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Re: I'll be the second wife. What should I ask the lawyer?
« Reply #16 on: September 01, 2015, 01:51:18 PM »
Second wife here. DH had kids from first and an ex who wanted everything.   Fortunately, I was a financial planner at the time and am very rational with money. I read all the documents to make sure I fully understood everything before we married. We did not have a prenup, but I would recommend one anyway. We kept money separate for a long time. The secret to success for me: I kept out of it. I did not deal with the ex or the kids at all. He had a separate phone line. I did not answer it. I was nice to the kids when they came over. I welcomed them. But I never tried to be a mom. I didn't want to be, I was not cut out for it and told them so. They were relieved. Twenty years on, they have told me that they think of me as an aunt, which is exactly how I feel. The grandkids (there are five now) love me. So many of my friends screwed up, I think, by getting too involved and having the kids and the ex resent it.

Bingo! This is what I hope for. I want kids and I like his kids, but his kids are not mine and I am not their mother. They already have a mother. They come here to spend time with their dad. It's been a few years already and we get along great most of the time (it was all the time, but then teenagerhood hit and now it's a coin toss each day). I try to be just a person in the house. I have no authority beyond "this looks like a fun game, but can we please throw that medicine ball at the brick wall instead of the drywall?" This is both a life-saver and a source of tension, because I have to check with my SO for everything. But I seem to have avoided the evil stepmother trap so far. Fingers crossed.

OP, I was in a situation much like yours before we married, right down to the vindictive bipolar ex and teenage stepkids. Luckily, I have come out the other side intact.

To reiterate/reinforce: yes prenup, yes to keeping all of your accounts completely separate until the kids are out of college.  On that note,one thing I did not know was that the FAFSA form asks for step-parental income, and some colleges can and do include your income in their aid decisions.  Had I known that before we married, We might have delayed marriage until the kids were out of college.

Also, definitely talk through all potential will and trust issues with him before you think about marriage. There are no right or wrong answers to how you make those decisions, but you don't want to go into the marriage assuming you each plan to make the other your sole beneficiary, only to find out after marriage that your husband intends to leave everything that's "his" to his kids.  Would make for a pretty stressful marital discussion.