Tuesday, April 27, 2010

The Telltale Post-it Note?

(NOTE: Jim's blog is now devoted to answering relationship questions submitted by readers. Please send any questions you may have to jim@attorneyatlove.com).

DEAR JIM: I've been upset all day. I drove my husband to the airport this morning---he left on a business trip and won't be back for three days. I took his car, because mine needed gas and we were in a rush. When I got home, I noticed a folded-up post-it note on the floor near the driver's seat. I opened it and saw, in my husband's handwriting, the name "Gina", along with a phone number. Jim, I don't know anyone named Gina and I've never heard my husband mention anyone by that name. I did a google search on the phone number but nothing came up. I know, though, that there are sites that, for a fee, will tell you who has a particular phone number. Should I find out whose number it is, or should I just call it and see if it's a business number? Or should I call my husband tonight and ask him to explain? We've been married ten years and I've never had suspicions about anything before, but this is really bothering me. ("M" in Canada)

DEAR "M": I know you're dying to get answers right away, but I think you should wait until your husband gets home before doing anything. For one thing, you need to calm down. If you were to call your husband tonight, your stress might get the better of you. There's a chance you would start accusing him of something that he didn't do, and that never goes well. Beyond that, if you disclose your "evidence" over the phone, you'll never get to see how your husband reacts. Yes, you'll hear his voice, but you won't get to see his eyes, his facial expressions, or his body language---all of which can tell you a lot about whether he's lying to you or telling the truth.

And I wouldn't, at this point, play private detective. Before you know it, you'll be obsessed with finding out everything about "Gina": where she lives, where she works, what she looks like, how old she is, how she knows your husband. If your husband's explanation is clearly evasive or just doesn't add up, you can start doing some digging, but it seems premature right now, especially given that there has been no pattern of suspicious behavior on your husband's part.

For all you know, "Gina" could be a hairdresser, a personal trainer, a business contact, or some other person your husband had a legitimate reason to call. Of course, she could also be someone your husband is seeing on the side. But don't jump to conclusions based on the tiny bit of evidence you have.

Good luck, "M", and please let me know what happens.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Why Was I So Tough on the Husband?

(NOTE: Jim's blog is now devoted to answering relationship questions submitted by readers. Please send any questions you may have to jim@attorneyatlove.com).

DEAR JIM: I think you were too hard on the guy who spent the lottery money [see prior posting, April 12, 2010]. If you can't blow your money on the lottery, what can you blow your money on? The guy's wife is no worse off now than before he bought the lottery ticket---except in her head. ("Ralph" in L.A.)

DEAR RALPH: I would agree with you if the guy had won, say, $500 and blew it the same day on something without telling his wife in advance. I play these lottery games myself, and I know what a rush you get when you win even a modest prize. It is fun to spend it. But the guy won $200,000. From what his wife said, they'll probably never see that kind of money, or anything close to it, ever again. I think the husband had both the moral and the legal obligation to consult his wife before spending the money.

Technically, you're correct that the wife is no worse off financially than she would be if he hadn't bought the ticket. But that's like saying that if someone gave you an expensive watch or piece of jewelry, and then you lost it, you shouldn't feel bad because you're no worse off than before you received it as a gift. It ignores the human aspect of it, which in the wife's case is her knowledge that her husband didn't care enough about their future financial security to even consult her before he spent the money.

I appreciate your comments, Ralph. Feel free to disagree with me anytime you'd like; it keeps me on my toes!

Monday, April 12, 2010

Her Husband is Blowing the Lottery Winnings!

(NOTE: Jim's blog is now devoted to answering relationship questions submitted by readers. Please send any questions you may have to jim@attorneyatlove.com).

DEAR JIM: About six months ago, my husband won $200,000 in a state lottery game. What's my problem? He's blowing it like a drunken sailor! He dropped $55,000 on a new Corvette, then took a couple of his buddies to Vegas to see a big boxing match, then gave $25,000 to each of his three adult kids (we were both married before). With all the taxes that were taken out, there's basically nothing left. I've been fuming over this, because it's not like we're made of money. We're not getting any younger, either, and we could have used the $200,000 to supplement our retirement funds. My husband says he has the right to do whatever he wants because he's the one who bought the lottery ticket. Am I right to be mad? ("Mrs. X")

DEAR Mrs. X: Yes, you do have a right to be mad.

The fact that he was the one who bought the lottery ticket is legally irrelevant; the money belongs (or belonged) to both of you. That's true automatically in states that are "community property" states, and in most other states it's standard practice to treat lottery winnings as money to be "equitably divided" in the event of divorce---usually meaning fifty-fifty.

So, legally, half the money he blew was your money. As a practical matter, though, there's not much you can do about it at this point unless you were to file for divorce. In that case, a judge might order your husband to reimburse you for your share of the winnings (maybe to be paid out of his retirement funds). Short of filing for divorce, you should at least insist that the Corvette be sold. Even though it's probably already worth considerably less than your husband paid for it, it's a constant reminder of your husband's selfishness. It might be worth getting what you can for it rather than to have to see the thing in the garage every day of your life.

Whatever you wind up doing, do it soon. You don't want this to be a festering wound for the next ten or twenty years. You need to explain to your husband that, legally, he's wrong, but you also need to explain to him that it's not just a legal issue. If your husband's attitude is that he can do what he damn well pleases, without considering your needs or your feelings, he needs to know that your marriage may be on very shaky ground.

You should, though, try to control your temper when you bring up these matters. Letting your anger get the best of you will just invite retaliation. (I'm sure there are things that you've spent money on over the years that he could throw back in your face). If the two of you can't have a rational discussion, you may want to bring in outside help in the form of a marriage counselor.

Good luck, "Mrs. X", and please let me know what happens.