Riverside Realtor Blog - Alma Dizon

Alma shares her experiences and observations as a Realtor in Riverside California.

Monday, July 03, 2006

She wants a house, but he doesn't want to work

I read an article recently about how divorce forces a lot of people into poverty as it's a lot harder for one person to live on half the couple's assets. In terms of real estate, a couple has better chances of getting a home by pooling their resources to qualify for a loan. However, I've known some women who've been forced to rent for a long time precisely because they ended up being the sole breadwinner, and I've seen one made into a slave of her mortgage. Each one got married with a lot of hope, only to discover that the man she married didn't want to grow up and get a job.

Now, these women and their husbands have nothing in common with each other geographically, ethinically, financially, or education-wise. They were all in their early 20's when they got married, and they and all but one of the husbands were very religious (hence, the reluctance to divorce). One of the husbands had a law degree from a top school, one attended college, another had been in the military and done some community college, and another had gotten his GED. One never worked at all while two quit work within months of marrying. The fourth quit his job while his wife was pregnant with their 2nd child, leading to their eviction from their apartment. They ended up in a government subsidized apartment.

The men refused to get individual therapy, and several couples only got limited marriage counseling after much begging on the part of the wives. One man told their counselor that if his mother could stay home, he could, too, and any money from part-time work was his alone.

Several of the women wanted a house, and 2 actively searched for a while when prices were low, but they couldn't qualify for a loan. One couple was able to buy a condo when the husband's mother gave them the down payment. The fourth lived with his parents the whole time.

Of the three couples without children, two divorced after several years and no assets. After some years, one of these women did finally marry a man she met at work who already owns his own house. The couple with the condo divorced after some 20 years, but she was forced to buy him out for half even though he had never helped with the mortgage payments. As the property has quadrupled in value, she's facing big payments for the next 30 years.

The couple with kids now have 3, and the wife is working full-time and going to school. Her mother has moved in to help take care of the kids because the husband won't. When the wife began working full-time, her paychecks were garnished to pay off the former landlord. She was able to talk the judge into reducing the amount taken out monthly, but he openly recommended that she get a divorce. She's slowly repairing her credit, got a car of her own (her husband drives a stick-shift truck and never taught her), and has a secret checking account and a credit card. Her husband got excited when he saw the cable was finally paid off and wanted to get cable again, but she refused. She has gotten his name off the lease and the utilities (though the electricity was shut off while she was staying with relatives and recovering from surgery, and he chose to buy something else with the money she'd given him for the power bill. The sad thing is, the kids were sitting in the dark with him!).

I have been very frank with the last woman. If she ever wants to have her own property, she ought to divorce first because CA is a community property state. If she manages to finish school, get a decent-paying job, and get her own home before divorcing, she may find him getting half their property and demanding alimony. Yes, she could hold title as separate property, but she would have trouble getting a loan in the first place since she's responsible for his debts unless she can get control of his spending (highly doubtful). As an educated, working single mother, she's more likely to be able to tap into government aid than if she has a continuously unemployed husband.

So while it's more often true that divorce forces women and children into poverty, it isn't always the case. I just can't help but think that some women would really succeed financially on their own and be able to get their own home if they wouldn't hesitate to shrug off the dead weight of a man who won't even look for a job. In fact, 2 such women might be better off putting their salaries together to get a nicer house and helping each other with childcare. And since they wouldn't get married, they wouldn't be responsible for each other's future debts!

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