Should we get divorced but stay together?

Updated Oct 12 2015
Offbeat Home & Life runs these advice questions as an opportunity for our readers to share personal experiences and anecdotes. Readers are responsible for doing their own research before following any advice given here... or anywhere else on the web, for that matter.
Should we set these aside to reap the financial benefits? By: PhotKingCC BY 2.0
My husband and I have been together for quite a while and we got married this past November. Not even a year in we realized that maybe we should have waited until after I graduated, or maybe not even made the leap at all. Not that we don't want to be together — we love each other very much!

But when we weren't married I had "zero" income. Now that we're married and I'm on his healthcare and I'm trying to continue my education I'm realizing that my low/no income healthcare was far better than actually being insured. And now I'm worried about me receiving enough aid to finish school.

Has anyone else thought about just getting a divorce on paper in order to reap the financial benefits? -Jessie

Update: before you comment, you may want to read Jessie's clarifying comment.

  1. In regards to the school aid question only: It may be beneficial to file your taxes separately instead of jointly. I recommend talking to your school's financial aid counselor to see if it makes sense for you. They can also point you in the right direction for other services your school may offer like a foodbank, low-cost medical care for students, free tax preparation services, or free legal help.
    Divorces, even on paper, are expensive, and may cost you more in the long run than you're paying now for other services. And if you live in a place with "at fault" divorce, you may be looking at even more trouble.
    In the end, if things are harder because you're married, this is a time to look to your spouse for support too. You're not doing these hard things by yourself, you're doing it together for the good of your new baby family.

    • In most cases, if you're married but file your taxes separately, you still have to include your spouse's income on the FAFSA, which often determines federal aid for most students. It's important to call the FAFSA hotline to clarify each situation: 800-4-FED-AID
      This is also true of many financial aid applications. In order to claim a marital status of separated or divorced, these applications often require some sort of proof that the situation is legally finalized.

      • not just spouse, but anyone who contributes to the finances in your home. when i applied for fafsa, i even had to include the income of my parents who were living in another state, but helping me out while i went to school & worked. so, divorced or married, if they are living in the same house & more than roomies, it goes on the application.

        • I believe you only have to file with your parent's info if you are under the age of 25 or something? Anyone know the exact numbers for this?

          • It's 24 or younger, unless you are married, have children of your own, or have served in the military.

          • Also, once you're in grad school, you're "an adult" and don't have to report your parent's income, regardless of age (I speak from personal experience).

      • Also, while it may be beneficial to file Married Filing Separately for school, you run the risk of lowering your federal return. MFS does away with pretty much all credits on the federal level, especially if you qualify for Earned Income Credit.

        There are multiple online tax tools that you can use. TurboTax, H&R Block and (of course) the IRS have great articles on the subject. You can also call your local H&R Block office during the off season (Premium Offices and other offices are still open on a limited basis) and someone will answer any question you have, no cost.

    • Just to clarify, if the poster lives in the US (which I'm assuming based on the fafsa issue) all 50 States have had no-fault divorce since 2010. Agree on the other points, though.

      • I was trying to speak as broadly as possible without being country specific.
        I did not know that no-fault is now available in every US state. That's good! (If the person posting the question decides to go down the divorce road.)

    • So I slept on this question. It's a doozey!
      And I wanted to add to my previous comment that divorce for merely economic reasons may be treated as fraud on the system for whatever low-income services you're trying to get.
      For certain, being divorced "on paper only" may impact things like a possible bankruptcy, disability, or retirement accounts. If you have children involved, it may impact the services and they're eligible for also.
      And although the fraud issue doesn't play in other situations, it will likely affect all of your marital rights like dower (a wife's right to the home if the husband dies), inheritance, other kinds of insurance. And what if your spouse dies while you're "divorced"? Anything that isn't legally titled in your name would likely go to your partner's parents — how well do you like your in-laws? How much would they possibly resent you for divorcing their baby?
      This is such a can of legal worms, that may or may not be worth it. And this is certainly a decision to be made with your partner (and your families where applicable).

      • THIS. In addition to what divorce can do to your credit rating, in my state (TX), if you have a will and then get divorced, your will is automatically interpreted as if your spouse had died before you (means he doesn't get anything and won't serve as Executor).

        If you've got kids, then that creates even more room for conflict, as your ex might not be able to be the Trustee of contingent trusts (basically, he couldn't manage the kid's inheritance until they are old enough to handle it).

        Yes, you can do a new will after you get divorced and specifically include your ex, but you've opened the door for somebody to contest it.

        Personally, I think it's a Pandora's box of unintended consequences and I wouldn't recommend it. If you can find a way to make ends meet, stay married.

        Good luck!

    • The government screws you when you get married. If you file separately, you lose the ability to take certain deductions (such as the student loan interest deduction). If you're on IBR for student loans, you can expect your loan payment to increase dramatically. I have a friend that did not bother getting legally married (still had a big wedding, etc) because they would not be able to afford their student loan payments. I am in a similar situation and we are considering getting divorced "on paper" so that we can save $500 a month. So disheartening.

      • Hi,

        I am in the same boat- My husband and I need to get divorced on paper to support our family- I owe 60 grand in loans and make one fourth of what he makes my loan payments are over 1,000 a month. We have a house daycare and our children's needs. I am can't be the only person who has divorced over student loans? ALso will that make a difference if in our divorce I am still living with my husband?

        • It depends. Lots of things these days are based on "household income" so it doesn't matter if you're married or not; the only thing that matters is that you're living together as more than roommates.

  2. I had a similar situation, but it was flipped. While I was first going to school, my financial aid was still based on my mother's income. Getting married made me an independent and far "poorer" as far as my financial aid paperwork went. I don't think there's anything inherently wrong in getting it on paper that you're no longer married in order to make sure you have educational opportunities, but you would probably want to look into the legality of it, and consult an attorney.

  3. Please… for the Love of whatever you believe in… don't get a divorce because of money. The gov't isn't here to pay for your education and healthcare. IT's for people who really need it, not people who just don't want to pay for it. This is what's wrong with our system. That mindset is why things are so jacked. Suck it up, take out loans, and pay them back like the rest of us who are responsible grown ups!

    • This is very patronizing to those of us who have done everything "right" but are drowning in student loan debt and unable to make a living wage and are without any form of healthcare.

      Just because you are lucky doesn't somehow make you a "responsible grown up". The system is so jacked because some people have far more money than they could ever need or use, made of the backs of the workers who work 40+ hours a week and can't even afford to go to the dentist. The workers are fighting over scraps while CEOs make a thousand times more money than the rest of us.

      But of course rich people "deserve" what they have, while the rest of us "deserve" to suffer because we were born into worse circumstances and weren't lucky enough to get out. It has nothing to do with hard work, so quit feeling so superior.

      • Like Jillian said, you both have a point. I really don't think people who are not genuinely needy gaming and abusing the social safety nets, etc that we have in place is the main problem in our country, the distribution of wealth, the kinds of things our government chooses to fund (I personally think we can afford to send everyone to college for free, and/or have single-payer health care and still be secure without spending more than every other country in the world combined on the pentagon, for example, but that's off-topic) are much bigger problems.
        I also applied to and attended grad school as a completely single young 20-something. I got financial aid, but this financial aid included absolutely zilch in government grants. I had a small scholarship from my school and the rest was student loans. We don't know what kind of financial aid she's referring to, FAFSA does view married students differently, so she may have difficulty even obtaining enough loans, that could be a real issue.
        However, I also agree that getting divorced for health insurance and financial aid is not a good idea, and feels wrong to me. Others have already covered the unanticipated costs and consequences of divorce and you may not be able to get back on whatever health plan you were on before once divorced anyways. I have had really sucky health insurance myself, but health insurance should be changing, hopefully improving, soon, with the state run markets opening up under Obamacare. Also, most colleges and universities offer some sort of health plan to their students, regardless of marital status, if you already have insurance, etc, that may or may not be better than what you have. Its best to reach out to your school and a tax professional about all these issues. And, as others have said, marriage is a gift and a responsibility, it's about facing tough times together, and divorce shouldn't be a first resort for any difficulty you face in your marriage, especially financial difficulties (my opinion anyway). There has to be a solution for the two of you that doesn't involve divorce.

    • This is my first comment since joining The Tribe. But this particular comment stuck out for me as important for me to weigh in on.

      Both my husband to be as well as myself are academics. He is a professor and I am a graduate student. Yes, we are going to defend our domain, but let us put that aside for a moment. What we see amongst our undergraduate students is not an unwillingness to take out loans. I did. Very deep loans. The point this original poster appears to be an allusion to is that FASA loans, which to be honest are no great deal at the current interest rate, have themselves eligible borrower limits. This poster seems to have been thrown into a category which prevents loan acquisition, not 'free government money.' Excepting the Pell Grant, there is limited federal grant money for education. The way through 'free' is on university fellowships, which is a different case to asses than what this poster appears to be asking for by way of advice.

      Anyway, I am new to this blog and hope it is a productive site on which to participate. That said, the utterly misleading portrayal you depict of educational funding could not be left unchecked.

      • As both a Graduate Student and a university employee, and single, with a mortgage, AND a butt-load of student debt… I totally understand the huge question mark looming over your head of "how the hell are we making things meet?"-dom.

        For me, the only way I was able to afford all of these things was actually taking a job at the university I currently am attending. You will want to talk to the HR office to find out what their policies are, but I am allowed as a full-time employee to take up to 9 credit hours of graduate level classes on a tuition waver. So every semester I take 9 credit hours that will go to my MBA, and then because that qualifies me as a full time student, I can suspend my student loans. Because my loans are suspended the interest accrues 1/2 as quickly as it normally would, I pay on it as if I owed the full amount, thus shortening the time it takes me to pay it off. You will want to check on the terms of your loans to see if this would work for you, if you have any.

        I know even a part-time employee there is some tuition waver involved. (Plus part-time is only 5 more hours a week more than being a work study or GA!)

        Food for thought!

        • That is a very good idea for the poster – take a job at the university to help make ends meet. There are a lot of perks to working at the university, not the least of which is school credit for work, or financial aid credit for work.
          Other perks may include reduced-price healthcare, secondary healthcare, reduced price transportation (in a myriad of ways), and eligibility for external services which reduce their price for university workers – things like haircuts, car rentals, movie/theater tickets, etc.

    • I'm sorry…but this article just blows my mind. It makes marriage look like a joke – and just as worse, is that people are thinking this is ethically OK. Sure, there are loopholes, but how is that helping ANYONE but yourself? Please don't even post articles like this… it encourages this type of thinking, which is SO mind-blowing to people like myself who are paying my bills and scraping by, but doing it legally and ethically without putting my marriage on hold so that other people can pick up my tab. I'm a complete liberal, but this is infuriating to read as part of your website.

      • The idea with our reader questions is to allow readers to educate each other. We didn't post the question because we support it — we posted the question because we figured our readers would have informative perspectives for the original poster… which, clearly you do.

        Now the issue is just hoping that Offbeat Homies can share those perspectives in respectful ways. It's great to be "a complete liberal," but it's also important to be articulate and respectful.

      • You know, for a lot of people marriage is a joke. A sexist and discriminating institution. I'm all for people getting by in any way they can, if that means getting married or divorced to get HEALTHCARE than they should do it. Seriously. HEALTHCARE. I'm glad you're such a bootstrapper and never have needed help but that sure isn't everyone else. And I say this all as someone who is married.

        It's insulting to be all high drama 'oh my god but what about the sanctity of marriageeeeeee' when you look at the amount of people who either cannot get married or cannot afford healthcare.

  4. I'd suggest looking into federal student loans, as you can borrow a certain amount with those without paying interest until after you graduate.

    Ultimately a divorce would probably cost more financially and emotionally than you would gain from it. Cass's comment had some good suggestions, look into those.

    • Thanks for the support on my comment. I had to take a moment to formulate all my thoughts and emotions on this subject. This feels so divisive. And it's completely different from what I experienced personally.

      I got married during grad school, but I feel so lucky that it only improved my situation. Although we got by on American Grad PLUS loans and my husband's research stipend. Other than not being eligible for foodstamps (SNAP) because we were students, we did sign up for many other low-income student programs.

  5. I don't know about how things are where you're at, but in my state it is extremely hard to get healthcare if you're broke (they do a lottery system), and it's supposed to be for people who are truly in need. If this is the case where you are too, and you have access to other healthcare, *please* leave that slot to someone who truly doesn't.

    • I hope I don't sound like a condescending @$$h01e Canadian but my stomach dropped at the idea of a lottery for health care. ((I'm hoping it's some sort of a joke that I'm not getting?)) Maybe it's because I just watched the first episode of '30 Days' on Netfix, but I think I would have failed horribly at being an American.

  6. I will second the married filing separately statement. It could solve many of your problems. I also have much crappier health care now that I am actually insured. I'd sit down with a google doc and see exactly how much more monetary output you are looking at, and compare it against the cost of a quickie divorce in your state. Some states require a legal separation period before divorce. That would mean establishing another domicile, which would just be even more money.

    tl;dr- it might not make that much financial sense depending on your state/situation.

    Also, I am weird and superstitious/sentimental, but I feel very different married to my husband than I felt living together. I am probably very much in the minority, but it would make me feel less secure and stable to go through the process of divorce. I am also not very pragmatic sometimes and the "ick factor" of having to pretend divorce my husband would probably scare me out of doing it. I'm sure many people are less wussy and impractical.

  7. I'm not a lawyer and I don't know much about divorce law but its an expensive and somewhat lengthy process. The fastest divorce I've ever encountered in my personal experience took six months. Even if you both represent yourself in court there's still court costs etc plus all the legal paperwork. It's not something I would personally consider for a multitude of reasons, the two I listed among them.

    • I live in WA and my whole divorce took about 4 months and I think cost about $200. If you don't have any communal property or debt, it's very simple. My ex signed the paperwork and I took care of all of the in person stuff alone, which included turning in some paperwork and then coming before a judge for 5 minutes. It doesn't have to be a huge process, though it will take some time.

      • It's very likely that being married only a few months, they wouldn't have much community property (unless it's a place like California), so it could be fairly simple.

  8. I'm going to try flipping this around: would you marry someone you aren't romantically involved with & don't love for financial reasons? It seems fraudulent to divorce someone then to continue to be romantically involved with that person (and not because you've rediscovered your love for one another). I am also betting that this coming to the attention of a judge in a divorce might not be a good thing…

    • Horrible as it might seem, I would marry someone I didn't love and wasn't romantically involved with for financial reasons. In a heartbeat, actually. A friend of mine and I seriously considered it because of the financial considerations. We ultimately didn't, for a myriad of reasons, but I don't see the problem with it.

      Now that I'm with my partner, neither of us are ready for a wedding, but we both know that should the financial benefits outweigh the costs, we'll absolutely get married and have the wedding some time later.

  9. If you're in the US, us a FAFSA calculator to get an estimate of your married and single outlooks. That can give you an idea of the federal aid you can expect in either situation.
    But know that that's not the whole picture. First, you're generally locked into a marital status when you file the form–you're considered "married" for the full year, even if you're going through a divorce. So you'd need everything legally tidied up before you file.
    Second, your college can choose to still give you aid, even if you're married. Talk to your school's financial aid counselors to get a good look at what's going to benefit you most.

  10. I don't mean to be disrespectful, but I'm pretty disappointed that someone would even consider this for multiple reasons.

    I know not everyone feels the same way about marriage, but getting divorced for money(at the expense of tax payers, btw) is a good quick way to cheapen your relationship. I don't know you, but I would be upset if someone I loved and supported during their marriage decided that this is what they wanted to do.

    And from a practical standpoint, have you researched the divorce laws in your state? This could actually end up costing you more money in the long run. Many states require that you live separately for some time before granting your divorce, are you really willing to move out? Are you prepared to hire and pay for a lawyer?

    I work in health and human services for my community's poverty stricken families, and while I acknowledge the system is broken for everyone, this post makes me very sad. I know how frustrating it is for people who fall between the cracks of having just too much to prevent them from receiving help, but not enough to meet their needs. There are services in place for those people though that are separate from government aid, and I encourage you to seek those out if you feel you need them.

    You didn't share your situation, so I don't know if there is something in your medical history that makes this a tougher decision for you, but if there isn't I would really encourage you to really think about this.

    As a newlywed who recently came onto some financial hardships with her spouse as well, I think you would regret this. Just my humble opinion. Good luck with everything.

  11. I'm going to agree with everyone saying to go see your financial aid counselor at school. Most times they are very willing to help you figure out how they can help you file and what aid you can receive. They can also help you look into grants! You may qualify for a type of aid that you weren't even aware of.
    You may also want to contact your insurance provider and see if there isn't a better plan you can be on. Or just shop around a bit.
    I say, check all options first. Divorce proceedings can be a pain in the ass
    and costly depending on your state. (I'm not judging your choice if that's the route you take!)

  12. As someone who has been through a long and expensive no-fault divorce and who knows others who have gone through the same, the idea that you'd be saving money is a bit laughable to me. Divorce is not fast, nor is it cheap. Also, the government considers you married for the entire year even if your divorce is quick, so it doesn't matter for your loan purposes.

    In my home state, you had to be separated for 6 months, financially independent of one another, divvy up your assets, complete enormous amounts of paperwork, and pay a large filing fee of around $500. That's without any lawyers getting involved. Take a good hard look at the hassle, the fees, and the cost of possibly setting up separate domiciles as well as the emotional cost that may sneak up and surprise you. I'd wager that you're not really better off divorced and involved, especially if you just file separately.

    I would talk to an accountant about this if you're serious about it. Have a chat with them about how your finances would look if you went through a divorce and how they would look if you just stuck it out. Chances are good that you're only looking at a couple of tough years right now, and you'd spend about half of that working on getting divorced. I spent $2000+ on my divorce, which took almost a year and killed my finances. A good friend of mine had a simpler case and spent about $1000 on it and it took more than a year due to separation rules. Get your facts, get the numbers, and then think long and hard about any emotional fallout that may occur before you file any paperwork.

  13. also, as someone who had to get gov medical aid b/c they are disabled & were single & living alone, i find this a bit insulting. if i remember correctly, support didn't depend on whether i was married but the combined income of those in the house & whether i was a dependent. if you guys would be filing as single people, that would be fraud on one level or another. & that means you'd be cheating people who need it allot more.

    perhaps you should consider committing to a budget AND a person in order to handle this temporary hardship a little less rashly. if you guys think this is a reasonable option, please talk to a counselor, both financial & marriage.

    many struggle for years to get their marriage legally recognized. please don't take that lightly.

    • In America anyway, it's OK to file separate tax forms while married. You are not considered "single" but it takes more into account than if taxes are filed jointly. Sometimes there is some loss of tax credits or other benefits, but that's usually weighed against the benefits of filing separately.
      Usual situations are when one spouse has an enormous amount of debt — or the flip side, individual income; when one spouse has a business in his/her name alone; and newlyweds who do it for school or student loan applicability.

  14. Stay true to yourself: If you married for practical reasons ( like healthcare and insurances) than stay practical. If you married for spiritual reasons (like love and religion), than stay spiritual. 🙂 You can also project yourself in ten years, and choose which options you see yourself live with for that long!

  15. This irks me because I have spent years trying to get divorced (from a man who is using our marital status to get government aid) so my love and I can get married and I can put my new partner on our children's birth certificates. Just get loans and/or talk to your financial aid office.

  16. I'm going to sidestep all the ways that this post really bugs me and just stick with facts as much as possible.

    Unless you live in Nevada, a divorce is hardly an easy solution. In my home state, it took me almost two years to get divorced, which I couldn't even file for until I was able to prove I had lived apart from my husband for a year. Many states have separation requirements. Are you actually willing to maintain two dwellings if need be?

    Also, my no fault self filed divorce cost over three grand in filing fees. We were in court with 12 other couples and ours was the only divorce granted that day; everyone else missed a step or signed something wrong or didn't check box a, and had to start over including paying all the fees.

    For the almost two years it took me to get divorced I was liable for "my" part of my husbands taxes, as the government considered our income joint even though we lived and filed separately. Even though my divorce was final in August, I had a substantial tax liability to deal with the next April.

    The "easy" divorce exists in Vegas and in the minds of right wing talk radio hosts. The reality is that divorce is complex and expensive. (And, for most people, a hurtful ordeal, hince all the serious feels this post is inspiring).

    And as someone who is currently paying back the loans I had to take out to pay for my last two years of school because…guess what, still liable for my husbands income during the long stupid divorce process, I really don't think it will help you out at all. And as someone with loved ones suffering due to lack of insurance and not enough social programs to go around, I have to say suck it up.

    Instead of worrying about how you can pay for school now that you have more income, or that your insurance isn't as good as the benefits you had in the past, you could be worrying about how to pay for your cancer treatment with no insurance and juuuust enough income not to qualify for Medicaid. Could always be worse.

  17. I've actually done a fair bit of research into joint/separate filing (with my father, the accountant) because I'm a freelancer/contractor, while my partner is a 9-5 office engineer, including costs for me to go back to school. There are a LOT of ways that you can tweek the financials to your advantage by filing separately, filing jointly, or even having your husband file as "head of household" with you as his "dependent". You should totally look into all of those options (maybe when all the tax firms offer "free" consultations every year), because you might be able to get your perfect solution that way.

    If not, there are always student loans. I have them, and yes, they suck, but the Stafford Federal loan does not accrue interest or require payment until you are no longer a full time student. Worth looking into, especially since you can apply for aid and then tell them "no, I only want X amount, not X+Y like you offered". That's what kept my loans down to a manageable amount. You can also find and apply to outside scholarships. It takes time to track them all down, but there are a bunch of them on the internet that could totally cut your costs.

    Regardless of where you live, getting a divorce (even just on paper) would be expensive, stressful, and hardly quiet. I would not want to deal with the firestorm of comments from my family if I told them I was getting a divorce for financial reasons. Granted, most of them are VERY Catholic, so "blasphemous" would be the most common word there, but even looking at the comments above show that people get up in arms about the idea. Keep that in mind if you decide to go through with it, since there are some pretty real consequences emotionally even if you and your husband are completely in love and in a stable relationship.

    So yea, to sum up: Talk to the financial aid office at your school, talk to an accountant/financial adviser (in tax season if you want to do it cheap/free!), look for outside scholarships if your school doesn't offer any, and remember that divorce is pricey, both emotionally and financially.

    Good luck, in any case! 🙂

  18. I don't know much about the US and how healthcare insurance and the like works down there.. But, I do know that in any instance divorce is a costly and lengthy process, and in some ways divorcing but remaining together could likely be viewed as fraud.

    I do know that when my husband and I were living common law and I was still in school it actually benefitted me in terms of student loans. Because we were both considered to be living off of his income (which wasn't enough to financially support us both), I got extra allowances and grants due to being a low income family. It also helped my husband come tax time because I wasn't earning enough during my summer's working to contribute to our income, so he paid a lot less in taxes because of my income being so little.

    If it does affect your student loans, maybe look into getting a student line of credit as well as the loan. I know it's not ideal, but in the long run it will help get you through school. Also, look at other options. What is your budget like for other items at home? Where can you cut money out in order to pay for school? What support services are around? Is food hard to come by financially? Are there food banks or food support programs around? Can you find subsidized housing? etc etc.

  19. I'm with many others replying here that your question is upsetting – to put it mildly. However, putting that aside…there are multiple things you should be reassessing here:

    1. How long until you graduate? A year? Two years? While I don't know what your medical coverage was before your marriage in comparison to after, I'm fairly certain that they can't be too vastly different. My healthcare was better when I worked part-time at Starbucks than it is now at a full-time 8-4 office job. But I don't complain, it's just one of those things.

    As far as aid goes, that can easily be rectified by seeking help through your school's financial aid/counselling office to figure out your options. Maybe a financial planner too to help out with your budget. Perhaps you'll have to get an weekend part-time job. There are numerous ways to make it work.

    2. Divorce is expensive and lengthy. There are legal fees, court fees, document fees, filing fees, administrative fees…not to mention depending on where you live there are stipulations (living separately, etc). In fact, by the time your divorce is all said and done, you might have graduated already. Then you would've just spent all that money and time on nothing. Financially speaking, it would be more economical for you to stay married than to get a divorce.

    3. Your divorce probably won't be granted. In my province, one of the stipulations is you must have lived apart for one year before the process can go through. You may start the process before living separately, but nothing will go through until that year is up. You can live in the same house, but you may not sleep together, have sexual relations, eat together, do social activities together, etc. If you do not adhere to that, or even LIE about it, your divorce won't be granted and you could be held in contempt. So first, there's that. Secondly, the court must deem your reasons for divorce VALID. To divorce purely because "My healthcare isn't as good/my current financial aid might not work out" probably doesn't count as a valid reason.

    Lastly, I will say marriage should be taken as a serious matter, and I'm assuming you entered into your marriage seriously. It's not something like you bought a dress one day, and then returned it the next because it doesn't work for you right this minute. Marriage should be a life-long commitment, but sometimes there are situations where it cannot be…hence divorce. And I'm guessing some of these people who are divorced who posted here did not enter their marriages expecting/wanting to be divorced.

  20. I got married (to someone I love) for the financial benefits, so I can totally understand the impetus to get divorced for the same reason! I don't really agree with or even understand all the shaming going on in this thread. However, in most US states, they give "carrots" to convince people to get married, and "sticks" to convince them not to get divorced, so I don't think it would work out in anyone's favor.

    Have you two sat down with some kind of professional – a fixed-fee financial planner or maybe someone in the financial aid office of your school – to figure your whole situation out? You might be getting less financial aid that before you got married, but you and your husband should be paying pretty low income taxes between the fact that you don't have any income and you are going to school. Also, you might have other insurance options than just your husband's insurance – my partner gets pretty decent, free insurance from his school.

    • I think the main problem I see with this question is that acting like marriage can be switched on and off like a relationship status for the sake of convenience is very upsetting to those that see it as a (hopefully) permanent decision. Yes, people certainly move up, push back or sometimes even have weddings for the sake of finances. However, in most of those cases the love is present and they're simply making official a relationship already in existence.

      Divorce, on the other hand, says that two people are severing a relationship. It strikes me as fraudulent to announce to your family & friends that you are divorcing but you'll continue to act as a married couple, just as it would seem fraudulent to marry someone for financial reasons with no intention of creating a union in any sense (physical, household, emotional, etc.).

      • But wasn't it fraudulent for me and my partner to get married solely for insurance and tax purposes? If the state did not incentivize marriage, we would not have gotten married, pure and simple.

        If a couple can have a union without a legal marriage (which I believe that they can), why can't they have a union after severing that legal marriage? It seems like a very weird situation, where my partner and I are allowed to be together before we get married, but once we tie they knot, we can no longer form any other kind of relationship with each other!

      • "(hopefully) permanent decision"

        Since when is it okay to project your relationship ideals onto another person's relationship?

        If she wants to get divorced and stay together as a couple, that's HER business, not yours. She's asking for advice, not for nitpicking about her ethics.

        • On the next page, Branwyn puts much of my same moral argument much more eloquently than I have managed to do so here. In this case it is not just my own moral ideals but the fact that the moral ideals of society will likely have an impact on her ability to go through with this plan.

  21. I do agree with others that it may be a process that's more lengthy and expensive than it may be worth. However, I'm going to throw my other two cents in. I don't necessarily see the problem in mutually ending a legal binding. You can still have a relationship and not have the legal benefits/repercussions. I do understand that some people need government assistance, and can't make it by without it (I know some people who won't get married because their combined income would screw them over – not enough to make it by, but too much for government assistance). I don't see it as cheating the system if you truly and honestly cannot make it by without it BUT if you can make it – even if you're scraping pennies – then I think you should leave the benefits for those who definitely cannot get them on their own.

    • I'm in this flip-side of the situation right now, actually.

      My fiance and I have been together for literally half my life, and engaged for a few years now. His job pays the bills, and I bring in extra grocery money and "hey, we haven't seen a movie in like 6 months, let's actually go out for once" money. We live within our means. His job offers healthcare, and he's looked into how much it would cost to add me to the plan (which of course he can't actually do, unless we get married). Just that large of an extra bill would push us pretty close to the edge of our comfort limit on finances each month, not counting any co-pays that might crop up, and seriously limiting any emergency funds we might need for whatever else life throws our way.

      In January, I reluctantly got on Medicaid in order to have a much-needed surgery, as well as get back on a very expensive medication I was supposed to be on for years but couldn't afford. Absolutely everything was covered. I still have a few follow up visits to do. What peeves me is how restrictive the income limit is. I would much rather pay into something like a sliding-scale system, but no… if I make literally $3 more per paycheck than I currently am, I get no healthcare (my job doesn't offer it at all). The only state healthcare coverage that I would be eligible for is for family planning. Ironic, seeing as how I don't want (and can't physically have) kids. Getting married would immediately include his income, which apparently we're supposed to be able to use an obscenely large portion of per month for health insurance (Food? Pfft, who needs to buy food to stay healthy…).

      We've done our research and crunched the numbers. It's very frustrating. I don't claim to know the best solution to fix the "system," but it's clearly messed up. Unless one of us miraculously gets a much better paying job that offers healthcare immediately at a price we can actually afford… we're stuck as just engaged for the foreseeable future.

      • Partial "This!"…healthcare costs at my employer are obscene ($2000 a month, anyone)…Unfortunately, obamacare doesn't look to solve my little problem (the new private markets are available if you don't have any offered through your employer), so how do everyday people make it work?

        • The PPACA (aka Obamacare) does have a stipulation that if your employer's healthcare isn't affordable then you can purchase through the exchange. I JUST heard my company's benefits' broker tell us that we weren't able to make us of it because our plan was found to be reasonable.

          Contact your company's HR Manager or boss and ask them to look into this for you. If they're working with an insurer or a broker then it shouldn't be an issue to ask that insurer/broker to explain PPACA to your company. That's why they're pulling in the big bucks!

  22. I'd recommend speaking to your college/university (not too sure of the US education system). They usually have dedicated finance departments that are pretty good at finding the best arrangements for you. They might also be able to provide some short term financial assistance if things are generally bad. They might be able to recommend some bursary or scholarship.

    I had similar issues with Student Finance England. I haven't lived with my parents for five years but as I'm not married to my partner they don't believe I'm an independent student, despite earning my own wage. It was almost worth it to get married just to get the full financial assistance, but then I would have lost out in other areas

  23. Does your husband's company offer variations for their healthcare policies? Some companies are starting to offer high-deductible plans (HSA, not sure if there are others) in addition to traditional policies. With these you'll pay much less in monthly premiums, sometimes you don't pay for preventive care, and you might still receive the benefit of insurers' discounts on services. It differs in that you'll pay for everything up front up to the yearly maximum deductible. Once that has been reached the insurance carrier will often cover the rest of the costs until the end of the policy year.

    edit: Apologies, I thought the cost of healthcare was an issue! Regardless, it's still worth looking into other policies and maybe even looking at buying a policy as a couple as opposed to being on a group policy.

    Also, perhaps you could take classes part-time and work a little to supplement the costs of school or healthcare. Not sure what your career path is but a little work experience never hurt a college grad! You might not qualify for as much when it comes to FAFSA or grants, but if your husband's income is already preventing you from receiving much assistance I'm not sure if a PT job will have much impact (as others said, see an adviser for this).

    There might be other ways to save money or make things stretch for a few more years. Take on roommates? Adapt a simple and super inexpensive diet? Go on a scholarship blitz? I figure if you've gone through the hurdles to get married you'll be able to work your way through school.

  24. Never been in this situation myself, but my mother has. My father has been extremely disabled for 10 years. It costs my mother tens of thousands of dollars every year to have him live at home with full time help, but it's still less expensive than living in assisted living. If they were divorced and they couldn't count her income, he would be able to live in assisted living. I don't want to hear the "at the expense of the taxpayers" BS, because the fact of the matter is that as a society we have an obligation to care for the neediest amongst us. So yes, the state would subsidize my father's care, just as I would happily subsidize the care for one of your parents if they were functionally blind, wheelchair bound, and ataxic with incredibly impaired speech.

    Anyway, she thought about divorcing him for financial reasons, but didn't. Honestly, I don't know why she hasn't. My best guess is that it was emotional, rather than financial reasons. I am sure that my father wouldn't want to divorce her. And I think that she probably does feel that the vows are worth the cost, but I'm not sure.

    In your case, I would say that you should just probably suck it up. Think of this as having made a poor real estate investment. Yes, you should have done your homework before you got married, but you didn't. So here you are, and it's likely going to cost you a bit. But hopefully it won't be a life altering mistake, just something to learn from in the future. You've probably got a couple hard years ahead of you, but if it's not going to leave you completely broke or totally lacking health insurance, I think the emotional cost isn't worth it.

    • Just a thought on your personal situation jane: If the living situation with your parents can hold out a while, perhaps they should go see an attorney about long-term care planning. They may be able to finagle a solution using tools like revocable trusts and long-term care insurance.

      • Thanks. They've done all that. The fact is, as you know, the system that is designed to incentivize marriage for most actually ends up hurting some. Ultimately, I think, the question is whether the emotional component of being married outweighs the financial penalties. That's a decision that only the people in the marriage can make for themselves.

  25. Hey guys!

    I am the original poster of this question. I'd like to lay a few things out for everyone since it appears my post is rather vague. Sorry it took me so long to chime in. It's Memorial Day and we tend to be rather busy today.

    1. Let me be clear, I'm not looking to divorce my husband so I can go live on welfare and have food stamps or anything like that. That's not the idea here. The problem I have is that, as at least one commenter said, I will be cut off from loans eventually for school. And with my husbands "ok" income that puts me in an entirely different bracket. He and I still struggle just like everyone else to make ends meet. We pay for healthcare through his company and it's TERRIBLE. I can't afford to go to the doctor anymore when I NEED to because I HAVE healthcare. Doesn't anyone else see something wrong about that? I had skin cancer last year and if I were on my husband's healthcare then I can't guarantee it would have been caught because I wouldn't have gone to the doctor for fear of the bill. I actually have health problems, unlike my husband, and I need to go to the doctor more often. If I have "zero" income I can actually be able to go to the doctor. I don't abuse this and I don't go for little minor scrapes and bruises. I go for things like CANCER and ASTHMA. Being on his health plan really makes taking care of that a bit more difficult because we can't afford the deductibles that come along with it.

    2. As far as student loans go: I have student loans. I have A LOT of student loans. I am in the same boat as everyone else is that has student loans. The problem we're finding is that with his income included into mine I'm not eligible for nearly as much as I need to complete even a simple associates degree. If they cut me off from the privilege of paying to go to school, then guess what, I can't go to school and I'm stuck getting a Mcjob instead of making something of myself. I am not looking for handouts. Sure I don't get Pell Grants now like I did before, but I need SOMETHING to be able to go at all. We can't afford to pay tuition out of pocket. We have things like a mortgage and shitty healthcare to pay for.

    3. As far as marriage goes: I believe in marriage. I also believe that we don't need a piece of paper to tell us we're married. So saying that it's destroying the sanctity of anything to me is an insult in itself. We made commitments to each other and we plan on sticking to them with or without a divorce. We're not going to sign some paperwork and all of a sudden hate each other. We're still committed to each other. We still love each other very much. We don't plan on leaving each other. So to say that us not being married on paper is doing anything is just silly. I understand that everyone has their own perspective, and this is mine. I'm all for it if anyone doesn't get married and stays committed and I'm also all for anyone who chooses to get married.

    • i didn't see "sanctity" come up in anyone's comments, but i may have missed it. when people are saying it's fraudulent, we aren't talking about morally, we're talking about legally. when you divorce, you don't legally go back to the status you were before. unless you are also planning to divide your incomes & live in separate housing, it's likely that you would still have to include your partner's income in applications. as i said before, having a chronic illness, i had to use gov insurance. & ps, sometimes they randomly didn't cover my meds. i lost it when i got married, but not because of my marital status, but because of the income in the home. if you're thinking of divorcing, living together, & reporting things as if you have nothing to do with each other financially, that is fraud. i actually think that is where allot of the anger is coming from. offbeat is an extremely open minded community. i don't think the response has a thing to do with "sanctity".

      if you are thinking of living separately to get the divorce status, have you considered the rights you will lose as a couple? do you know the steps to take to insure you can still be in the er?

      btw, i don't know if you're aware but obamacare actually kicks in more in a few months. this will likely change your situation. do you know in what ways?

      also, consider working one of those mcjobs. i delayed my schooling for a bit so i could save up in those jobs. one thing i found was that many of these jobs have healthcare AND many will contribute a percentage to tuition while you work for them.

      have you talked to a financial advisor in school? there are so many programs out there other than loans & fafsa. i applied for about everything & ended up getting most of my schooling covered (other than books & incidentals). one of the grants was simply b/c i was a woman going back to school. my husband got a grant simply b/c he kept his grades at a certain level (during college, he didn't go to hs). there are so many things you don't think of out there.

      have you considered cheaper housing? you mentioned having a mortgage. i don't know your situation, sometimes owning can be cheaper, but if you can't afford healthcare, it may not have been the time to buy a home … or maybe just trade down to a cheaper place, move into a studio apartment, rent out a room….

      have you talked to a financial & legal advisor about whether this will even work?

      • THIS. "also, consider working one of those mcjobs. i delayed my schooling for a bit so i could save up in those jobs. one thing i found was that many of these jobs have healthcare AND many will contribute a percentage to tuition while you work for them."
        No shame in working a Mcjob – it is money and support when you need it. There's a reason these jobs are so popular among students and immigrants. They fill a societal need, by feeding people.

        • I agree with this. I worked at the school dining hall every weekend for two years and then worked at a Dollar Store the other two. When I graduated I did Americorps because they gave a stipend, great training and experience and gave some $$ toward schooling. There are options.

        • What if she doesn't have the physical ability to work a McJob? I've been struggling with school and loans for years, but unfortunately, I am physically incapable of working a McJob. It's not that I haven't tried. I have, multiple times, and I get fired each time due to health problems. If she can't work a McJob, then what next?

          And someone else says it later, but it bears repeating…McJobs don't pay a living wage. They're not enough to live and save on at all. If you have some other kind of buffer, like student loans, you might manage, but otherwise, that alone is not enough, especially if you have health problems.

          Also, I'm really frustrated by all the financial and moral shaming going on here. Please try to remember that other people have different lives, ethics, morals, and opinions than yours, and that you do not have the right to shame anyone for anything.

      • Gotta give an extra THIS! in regards to the "McJobs" defense.

        My "McJob" made me a serious candidate when I graduated right into the throes of the recession. Not only did I show I could handle a full-time job as well as school, but I was a supervisor (bonus 1). The senior staff and management loved that I didn't complain about the "McJob" or assume I was too good for it. So they all wrote recommendations for me when I needed it (bonus 2). I found work almost immediately after graduating!

      • 3rd-ing the THIS to McJobs. I worked a McJob all through school. One year during the Christmas season I worked two! The McJob helped pay a lot of my bills, and it also offered me better healthcare than what the college was offering (I opted out of the college-provided healthcare to keep my fees down). Depending on your McJob, as long as you work a minimum set amount of hours, you are covered. AND you can keep on as a dependent with your husband's healthcare (my parents do this. They are both dependents on each other's healthcare to reap the full benefits). (I'm going to give the ol' Starbucks is actually pretty great nudge here…I had awesome benefits with them, my friend worked at McDonald's and she had nothing but good things to say about their benefit packages.)

        One of my McJobs actually prepared me for my work now. I moved up during my time there and was promoted a few times. Now I have all this business experience on my resume.

        • 4th on the McJob!

          I'll be blunt. Higher education is a luxury, not a necessity. If there are no situations where you can afford to be in school right now without resorting to divorce, then you should not be in school right now. Take some time off, work a generic, low-level job, save some money, and go back when you can afford it. People do it all the time – I'm doing it right now.

          • So much this. No way could I have afforded graduate school when I first wanted to go. I waited six years, worked as a nanny (not quite a McJob but close), and this year have finally found myself in a position to afford to go to graduate school. I second the "for richer for poorer" comments. Divorce is not the way to go in this situation.

          • The comment about higher education being a "right" just rubs me the wrong way. The opportunities are there for worthwhile candidates that are pursuing careers with demand. But there should be no right for someone to go to school for something that won't contribute to society or possibly even support that person.

          • I get the idea that someone should go work at McD's to make more money, but that doesn't solve the problem. When she isn't in school anymore, she'll have to pay that money back; and the job market is extremely competitive. Even people with advanced degrees and full-time jobs (married to people who also work full time) are living like college students (I speak from experience!). She's more likely to be unemployed than to actually make enough money to afford the hefty student loan payments they'll be asking her for. Which, by the way, those payments will take into account her husband's income.

            My husband and I have joked about this, because if we weren't married we wouldn't have huge monthly payments we can't afford (which affect things like how much you can get for a mortgage in addition to making you broke). If I were single and popped out some kids, I'd be golden. Still, it's probably not a good idea to have a fake divorce; I can't imagine pulling this off without having to perjure yourself.

          • Hey JPT!

            You make good points, but you're working under the assumption that you must use loans to get through school. When I said "work a McJob," I was saying "save your money until you can just pay for things." My husband and I are both working right now, paying cash each semester as he gets his Masters – and then I'm going for mine next. If we can't cover our living expenses as well as tuition payments, he takes off a couple semesters. It takes a bit longer this way, but we'll be debt-free when we're done with school and free to take whatever jobs we wish (low-paying or not).

        • Good point about being have to have *multiple* health insurances. In some situations you can use both to cover medical fees. For people with serious health problems but can work a job that offers cheap healthcare, this is a good option for keeping costs down.

    • You can always contact companies directly as far as medications go. I worked as a case manager and many companies gave away a free year's supply of medication like Advair for asthma, and I've seen them do it for hardcore psychiatric drugs, too. I always suggested that people look into buying their Rx drugs through Canada and India, as well because they were more affordable.

      • A patient can ask their doctor about lower cost options for their treatment, too. Often the doctor gives the brand name because it's easy, the patient knows what it is and how to use it, and it's been around a long time. If a drug just came off patent, then there may be a cheap generic.
        It never hurts to ask your doctor. They want you to continue the correct treatment, and money can be a serious inhibitor to proper compliance.

  26. Is there any way for both of you to get on a different health care plan? My job allows you to opt out of the company health care plan as long as you can prove that you have some other type of insurance. If you have health problems, it might actually save you money to pay a slightly higher premium in exchange for much lower deductibles.

    As far as school is concerned, other people have covered your options for exploring different ways to increase your loan threshold. Another option is to postpone schooling and save up for out-of-pocket tuition. Yes, it might suck to have to put a hold on your education, but in the long run working for two years and then having NO more school loans for the rest of your life might also be worth it. The thing with education and loans is that it's a long-term thing. Yes, you might have to get a McJob now, but it's not a forever thing. In the long-term, two years of a McJob could be better for your financial health than loans now banking on a higher income later. And a degree doesn't necessarily mean high income, at least not right away. I work for a non-profit, and my salary is not nearly as high as my loan company thinks it should be eight years after graduation. They keep wanting to up my graduated plan to the next level, but in this economy I haven't gotten a raise in four years and just don't have the extra income. This isn't to say that there's no way to get your education now, but just to consider that taking out loans on the chance that you'll have a better paying job to pay them back later might not actually be the way it turns out.

    In any case, I'd say that divorce is your very last resort. Besides the moral and ethical problems it brings up (obvious based on previous posts), it's probably not even your easiest or cheapest option. Good luck in figuring everything out!

  27. Putting aside the ethical question around getting divorced for financial reasons, I think that it's too late to get a divorce for the reasons you've outlined. As people have mentioned, divorces are expensive and time-consuming and you might even be charged with fraud if you try to stay together while going through proceedings. I'm also not sure that you would save more money through health care costs than you would lose through a divorce. Not to mention the personal cost of the inconvenience.

    If your health is in jeopardy because of a barrier to accessing healthcare, from a practical standpoint, you do not actually have healthcare. From my understanding of divorce proceedings, it's not a viable option for doing so. However, the situation isn't helpless and there are some good options out there for you: grants, bank loans, student loans, getting additional income, etc. I would really really have a good understanding of the numbers before you start anything you can't get out of. Sit down, tally all your expenses and see exactly how much more you need and proceed from there.

    The only other thing that I would recommend is checking to see if you can opt out of your husband's health insurance and still be eligible for either public healthcare or another private option (e.g. through your university?).

    Good luck and I really hope that your cancer is a thing of the past.

  28. I don't understand what the problem is with getting a civil divorce, relationship-wise, anyway. Civil marriage and spiritual/personal marriage are two entirely different things. One says you love each other, one says you want certain legal benefits and protections.

  29. I have to agree with a previous poster. Taking a Mcjob doesn't mean you are not bettering yourself and isn't a permanent thing. It wasn't for me. I have worked in order to pay my way through school fully after exhausting my loan possibilities. It has not only helped me appreciate my degree more, but it has also given me a better outlook on my position in life. It will suck, no denying it. But there so many other routes to try.

  30. This one is really twisting my brain in all sorts of directions, and for that I thank you. Others have covered the practical side of things quite better than I could, so I'm going to focus on the ethical/personal/moral side and explore my own feelings for a bit. This post and the discussion in the comments is forcing me to realize that I have some internal logical inconsistencies in my brain. Because yes, I do think that legal marriage and personal marriage are and should be mostly separate -and the legal side should be even more separate than it currently is from the personal. I see nothing wrong with a couple considering themselves married and living together without the legal marriage, but somehow the thought of having the legal marriage and then discarding it, but keeping the personal marriage feels fraudulent (whether it is or not I don't know, I've never studied the law in that way, but for the sake of argument I'll assume that it is). Maybe it feels fraudulent in the way that getting legally married to someone you're not actually in a relationship with, or don't consider yourself "personally" married to also feels fraudulent.

    Of course, I'm confusing two different things. One is whether what you are considering is wrong for any moral/ ethical reasons in itself, and the other is whether it wrong considering that it is illegal. I think I can honestly say that, from my perspective, there is nothing morally wrong with it in itself -a couple should be able to freely decide that they don't want to be legally married anymore without having to dissolve the actual relationship and separate their lives, just as they should be able to decide before hand whether or not to pursue a legal marriage. In that case, fighting to get the law changed would be a moral action if you chose to do it, but being deliberately deceitful and trying to get your way by breaking the law without challenging it directly would not be… which gets a little bit into civil disobedience territory. Disobeying an injust law can be a moral act, but I think it must be done in an open manner that might have some hope (even if slight) of putting pressure on the lawmakers to change the law. Doing it in a hidden or deceitful manner for entirely personal gain would be more just ordinary lawbreaking rather than civil disobedience.

    Back to the separation (if any) between personal marriage and legal marriage: while I believe they should be mostly separate, I think my problem with it is thus: the act of changing the legal side from consistent with the personal to inconsistent with the personal feels different than simply having the personal and legal being different through other means. So, staying legally married for practical reasons when you no longer feel personally married would not feel (as) wrong, but getting legally married for legal benefits when you don't consider yourselves personally married and don't want to be personally married would be more wrong. Likewise deciding to remain not legally married when you consider yourselves personally married for practical reasons would not feel wrong, but getting legally divorced when you still consider yourselves personally married and intend to stay that way feels wrong. In other words, if you experience a change of personal marriage status (or want to), it is your choice whether to register it with the government, or not. But specifically registering information that is not true on a personal level would be in some sense morally wrong, considering the laws as they are currently, whether or not you agree with them.

    • In this instance, it would be similar to the concept of a "contract marriage". A contract marriage is typically known in the military. You get married so that you both can gain benefits from being legally married, but there is no actual relationship between the two. In a way, what you are asking would be similar, but what I'm going to refer to as a "contract divorce". While getting the legal divorce seems like it would be beneficial financially, it's not smart from a legal perspective. It is considered fraud and could land you some jail time. I'm not going to condemn the idea, but I want you(Jessie) to make sure the benefits will outweigh the risks in your personal opinion BEFORE you make your final decision. It's very important for you to know all the risks associated with getting the "contract divorce". Times are hard, and I wish you the best of luck with your decisions!

  31. Something to also think about is that it is possible that some of the mentioned "plan" could constitute fraud. I'm not an attorney, but the legality of this move could be questionable. I would strongly reccomend speaking to your lawyer about it.

    This concept bothers me for two reasons. First, it is gaming the system, and there are alot of people who see this type of thing, and want to eliminate the whole social saftey net. I personally pay 25% of my income in taxes, didn't go to college, and paid for my time in technical school; basically, I've had to work my butt off for what I have. I work 60 hr weeks, and farm on the side. That anyone else shouldn't have to pay the same dues (who techincally could) is something I struggle with.

    Second, For those of us who have issues with divorce, due to my family situation growing up, this is kind of hard to take. While I understand marriage means different things to different people, to divorce someone you love for financial reasons just bothers me.

  32. Hi!! I'm in the same boat as the questioner, however, me and the Mr. aren't officially married yet. The student loan situation is one of the biggest problems we have to face as a generation, and in order to be able to live, some of us might have to bend some traditional rules. Having just graduated from law school with the ethics class fresh in my mind, if you have a legal question, find a family law lawyer who offers a free consultation and make an appointment.

    No lawyer in their right mind would be able to give you advice online in an advice column because it is a pretty clear ethical violation due to the fact that you can easily be misled by someone who doesn't know anything about the laws in your particular state. You have a legal question that you need to take to a lawyer, who will be able to advise you about your particular state's laws and how to manage the finance/health care quagmire. Good Luck!!!

  33. This is such an awesome question with so many passionate responses.

    I'm a lawyer and I work with LGBT families – many of whom are in this exact position right now, as marriage becomes available in more and more states, but not at the federal level. Many couples are taking the more financially viable route, whether that's marriage or avoiding marriage, depending on their individual circumstance.

    It seems to me that marriage itself is at the heart of this question; marriage as an institution designed to benefit families in which one partner is the higher earner and the other partner typically earns nothing and stays at home. When you introduce other variables into the system (one partner's student loans, both partners earning income, particular health insurance needs), the system exposes its flaws.

    When I was in law school, I studied under Nancy Polikoff. Prof. Polikoff is an amazing scholar and a proponent of separating all legal obligations from the institution of marriage. She thinks that every financially interdependent unit should benefit from the same programs and services and be beholden to the same obligations as every other financially interdependent unit. That way, our social services programs will be able to allocate aid precisely where it is needed. For example, I'm not-married to my partner and thus I have a lower student loan payment. She thinks that's terrible because we can afford to pay more, and therefore we should be obligated to. (This is to say nothing about her thoughts on student debt).

    Likewise, she thinks that my partner and I should be able to access health care together at the same rate as any married or legally partnered pair (which some employers do offer, and some states will under Obamacare).

    Essentially, the rhetorical question is whether the citizens of a country are still benefiting from the legal/civil emphasis placed on a religious institution.

    Personally, like many others here, I think you should carefully examine the full financial and legal obligations of divorce. If they benefit you, please do take advantage of the system. If they do not, etc.

    And I urge all of us to continue to argue for a more accurate distribution of governmental services and benefits, based not on whether we have a legal piece of paper, but based on whether the people with whom we are financially interdependent qualify us for the benefits and services.

    tl;dr – Read Beyond (Straight and Gay) Marriage, by Nany Polikoff.

  34. I got married while I was in graduate school to my college sweetheart whom I had been with for five years at the time. He wasn't making much money, so ultimately our marital status only helped us at the time because we got more back in our tax refund that first year. However, our general lack of funds and health insurance (on top of other things) became a real issue for us.

    Within a year and a half of our wedding we were separated. It took another year and a half for us to actually get divorced. For us, this was also because of arguing with each other and not really knowing how to go about getting divorced and in no way having the money to hire a lawyer. By this time, I was out of grad school and working a part time job. I figured out how to file (we used an online system that let's you fill in your info and then sends you the filled in paperwork for a fee. I think it was a few hundred dollars) and I filed it with the courts (another fee) and within three months we had a court date. This whole process was simplified because we actually filed for a dissolution instead of a divorce, which meant we weren't fighting about anything and we had to agree on everything up front and we just showed up and represented ourselves in court. When the judge asked us why we were seperating, we used the fact that we hadn't lived together in over a year as our reason. She granted our dissolution immediately.

    It probably cost us less than $500 when all was said and done, but that's not including the time we both had to take off work for the hearing or the financial concessions I had to make to my ex to just get it over and done with. Additionally, because our court date was on January 6th, I still had to file my taxes for the previous year as married filing separately since we were still legally married at the end of the year. I'm not sure how this would affect you, but it cost me big. Because I was working, and you can't claim certain things when you file this way, I ended up owing a large amount in taxes.

    The other thing I would say is, how do you do with emotional upheaval? I recognize that I was arguing with my ex-husband when I was going through all of this, so that definitely upped the ante and wouldn't be something you would necessarily deal with. But the whole experience of having to file and having to go to court was full of anxiety for me and included a few not so nice or helpful interactions with people who worked in the judicial system.

    If you do decide to do this, I would make sure that the terms of the divorce are things you can live with no matter what the outcome. If I've learned anything from this whole experience, it's that people can change quickly. After going through all this and finishing school, there's no guarantee you two will end up getting remarried at any point in the future, no matter your intentions now. So make sure you both get what you need legally now, don't count on getting it fixed later.

    Edit: Also, sorry, I just realized this got really long. Good luck to you, no matter what you decide!

  35. My sister-in-law somehow makes money going to college. I don't agree with it, but she does. My husband's brother is ex-Navy, so his school is paid by the GI Bill, and the government also pays roughly $1300 a m0nth for him and his wife to live off of (they do this for all veterans using the GI Bill for full-time schooling). Thus, my brother-in-law only needs a part-time job to live comfortably. His wife doesn't need to work, and they both pocket Pell grant money because, taxes-wise, my brother-in-law only works 10 hours a week and is married and good god how do they eat? Though, his GI Bill is going to run out soon (it only pays 36 months of school), and that'll be fun when she has to work for the first time ever because that $1300 will go away. I will enjoy it 😀 She also applies for every scholarship ever, and she maintains a 4.0 GPA no problem so she usually gets all of them. Again, she pockets all of it. So, she's making money off of scholarships that normal people actually NEED to ATTEND SCHOOL, like the original poster. It grinds my gears. But, if it was ME, and I could not have to work, I'd probably leap at the opportunity.

    I married my husband only after I graduated, because I knew his added income (he was military at the time) would screw me over. Which is funny, because it shouldn't screw me over! But there it is. So now he's going to school with the GI Bill like his brother, and I have $40,000 in school loans to pay off, but it's all okay! I found that government loans (which I got because I was poor as shit) have an income-based repayment plan that took my monthly payments from $400 to somewhere around $70. And, if I keep paying them, they'll be forgiven in 25 years! Yay! And I guess we'll pocket some Pell grant for a year, because last year sucked really bad financially (It was hard for me to get a job, but now I has it!), which will reflect in his FAFSA for this school year.

    Thanks to Obama, I get to use my dad's insurance for another two years (my husband another 3 from his dad), but after that we'll have to pay an extra $200 a month for healthcare! Ouch. And I work at a university that makes me pay for parking, so my paycheck is already garnished $100 a month. They will let me get a master's degree for free, though, so I guess that would be great.

    LONG POST IS LONG: Bottom line for those who don't want to read my spiel (can't blame you!): See about Income-Based Repayment on loans, Seek employment at a university (they'll pay for you to take classes at their school most likely!), get awesome grades and then apply for scholarships like a crazy person, perhaps enlist in the military. The Navy and Air Force have excellent options for people who don't want to be involved in combat.

    • I completely agree with the income-based repayment plans. If you have federal loans then this should be an option for you. It's definitely worth looking in to. I also suggest looking into programs that will help you pay for school. In my city, some of the major employers will pay for you to go to school if you promise to work for them for x amount of time. That way you get school money, healthcare benefits, and work experience all at once. There are also programs like AmeriCorps that will pay you a stipend, health insurance, and an education award. The nice thing about a volunteer commitment like that is that you are not considered employed, so you are also eligible for government assistance in most cases.

      As someone who got screwed over by the system, I don't really have an ethical problem with your dilemma. I get it, I really do. I did feel some kind of way about the not wanting to take the Mcjob route. I have had some friends that felt the same way after we got out of school. However, due to the economy even with a college degree I know A LOT of people who ended up with 40000+ in student loans and still had to work a Mcjob, me included. A degree doesn't necessarily help with your job prospects, especially one in the liberal arts. I wish someone had told me that when I was being handed my lovely BA in History. Job experience, in any job, helps a lot. Especially if you prove that you are willing to work and make the best of your situation.

      I'm sorry to hear about your health and financial issues. As a fellow $100 an inhaler asthmatic, I know how much it can suck. I also wish you the best in your cancer recovery. I can't imagine. I hope that you find a solution that works for you and your husband.

    • Just know, that at the end of 25 years the portion that is forgiven is considered income and taxed at that rate. I'm doing this for my graduate school loans, but I'm still going to owe about 30,000 in TAXES on the "income" (aka, the waived student loans). Just something to be planning for now…

      • I didn't know that. Thanks for the heads up! Do you know if that's also true for the public service waiver after 10 years? I'm definitely going to need to look into it.

        • Yep! That's the waiver that I'm going for…my husband's an accountant and did all the math on my loan and it was still crazy expensive just in taxes. I think there is a payment plan for taxes, though, but it does start to get ming boggling, loans to pay back loans…

          • This is not my understanding.

            From Generally, student loan forgiveness is excluded from income if the forgiveness is contingent upon the student working for a specific number of years in certain professions. Public service loan forgiveness, teacher loan forgiveness, law school loan repayment assistance programs and the National Health Service Corps Loan Repayment Program are not taxable.


  36. I understand where you are coming from. I wouldn't go so far as to get divorced, but I thought about it. With my first baby, I ended up with a $100k medical bill due to NICU stay. With the second baby, we lost our health insurance about a millisecond before I found out I was pregnant. I was so scared that I considered lying and saying my husband left me, like so many other people do. In the end we ended up just making a payment plan with the hospital, and luckily not having a NICU stay, but I really heavily considered it. People will judge, but it's not the worst thing you could do.

  37. There are plenty of people who don't get married for these same financial reasons- I really don't see any ethical issue with you guys getting unmarried for the same reasons.

    But… as everyone else has pointed out in great detail… it's not really that easy.

    Best of luck- I feel you on the healthcare. I pay out of pocket for insurance because I'm self-employed but the stuff that I can afford really doesn't cover much, unless I get in some sort of horrible accident. I do get one or two preventative trips, but of course if they FIND anything I'm totally boned. Fingers crossed for an Obamacare miracle.

  38. I'm going to stay out of the moral dilemma here, because people have already touched on it quite a bit…but I will suggest, and apologies if I missed someone else suggesting this, school-based health insurance. During my undergrad, I had to get off of my parents' insurance for various reasons, and onto the school-based. It was not expensive, and the visits to the school clinic were completely free. My graduate school offers this as well, and it's actually about the same cost as my insurance through work (so not all are the same). This may be something you could look into.

    As for aid, I don't really know what to tell ya. I totally understand the desire to not have more loans. I already have plenty, and I had to put off grad school until I got a full scholarship through my work…so I get it. That being said, you have to weigh the pros/cons of the loans. Do you *have* to finish your school to get the job you want? Could you switch to a cheaper school? Or take some classes at a cheaper location? Would the extra loans put that much more on your monthly payment at the end of it all? I weighed these and decided against them, but for some, the extra loans make it possible to get the well-paying job they were looking for.

  39. I am in a long-term, same sex relationship. I would love to have the option to marry my partner because we WANT to be married to each other. No financial benefits or constraints are being considered. We simply want to be married. The fact that you would divorce your spouse and give up what is a RIGHT to you but not a right to me is disrespectful to those of us who fight every day for equal treatment under the law. You should really consider your blessings before making such an advantageous decision.

    • I thought about this when I first posted. On one hand, I agree with you. On the other hand, what Jessie does with her marriage has nothing to do with you getting the right to marry (any more than your right to marry has any impact on the "sanctity of religious marriage" folks that want to ban marriage equality). You can respect and fight for marriage equality as an institution and still recognize that the system is screwing you personally because you are wed.

  40. Like it or not… this is already happening. I work in Medicare land and PLENTY of long time married couples are divorcing in pursuit of bigger checks, more medicaid. You name it. It makes me sad but ultimately as long as there is a game to play, people will play it to suit their own needs. I don't like it but how is it any different than couples co-habitating while presenting themselves as married just to keep their incomes separate.
    And everyone who is mad… take a moment. Feel this feeling. Realize that those who have different ( typically more conservative) attitudes toward marriage feel this way all the time while we flit around in front of them with our modern attitudes toward name changes and gay marriage. Its not often we are on the conservative side is it? This whole website is dedicated toward letting people make marriage their own including tough topics. Well friends this is an exercise in tolerance.

    • THIS. So much of this.

      I really feel for the OP. I recently got married, and while our health is fine (my husband and I don't currently have any health insurance at all because we can't afford it), my son has both Asthma and a form of high functioning Autism. We use state provided healthcare to cover his medical expenses. Things like inhalers, and meds for the asthma, and speech/occupational/physical therapy for his Autism are EXPENSIVE. (He has a friend from school whose parents have to pay several hundred dollars a month, and that's after their insurance kicks in, just so their autistic son can have 30mins of speech therapy every week). We're currently on a wait list for ABA therapy (which typically involves 40hrs a week of working with a trained therapist), and I'm terrified of the expenses.

      Like I said thus far I've been a single mother with an extremely low income, and so my son has had state provided insurance. Now I'm married, and have a slightly better job and I have to send in my paperwork this month to renew my son's insurance. I'm terrified we won't qualify any more and I have no clue how we'll pay for any of the things he needs. This isn't about not being able to go shopping or take a vacation. It's about the fact that my husband's income means we don't choose which utility bill gets paid this month. And moving to a smaller/cheaper home isn't an option because my son needs to stay in the school system he's in now (we're already in the cheapest apt we could find that keeps him in the system).

      We can all talk about "gaming the system" and what not, but for many people living in the US this isn't about a game. This is about trying to keep our heads above water because life didn't go according to plan. I've gotten the lectures and the snide remarks about "planning better", but the truth is when I got pregnant I was married and we were both employed full time. I didn't expect to need to plan on getting divorced, and I most certainly didn't expect to need to plan on my son having special needs that can be very very expensive. I've worked hard to keep us moving forward (including giving up my plan to go back to school), but still we've needed help, and we're not out of the woods yet. I don't understand why we as a culture can't see that taking care of each other isn't about sacrificing what's yours, it's about realizing that at some point in our life each and every one of us needs help. We sink or swim together.

      There are countries all over the world that get that. I don't understand why the US can't.

  41. SO MANY CONFLICTING THOUGHTS! (These thoughts are my reaction to reading all the comments, NOT about the original poster.)

    It all comes down to small picture versus big picture.

    In general, I think everyone DESERVES healthcare. However, I totally get that the person who makes smart financial decisions, has an emergency fun, and lives within their means would not want to put money towards someone else who didn't make those same smart decisions. I get the the person who doesn't smoke, exercises, stays out of the sun, and takes other healthy initiatives and doesn't want to pay for the health care of the obese smoker who lives in a tanning bed. But, ultimately, there are things that happen that are beyond our control. And ultimately we CAN'T CONTROL THE DECISIONS OF OTHERS, and some of the time those decisions won't even matter! We have to make the sweeping decision to help people who need it, no matter how they got there. We can't assume that they had the opportunities to make the same decisions we did. (Can you tell that I teeter back and forth on this issue?)

    As for education, I am also conflicted. The cost of education is proportionally MUCH higher than it used to be. And your education most likely influences your earning potential.
    My dad made enough money at his summer job to pay for the entire upcoming year's tuition and books at an average small liberal arts college. There is NO WAY I could have done that. I did, however, work hard in high school, applied for every scholarship I could find, and chose a school based on the financial aid package, not my "dream." It was the right decision for me. I also chose my major based on a combination of talents and job prospects, so I could pay back my loans. So I do think that people who made the same decisions as me "deserve" an education. But I don't think that people who go to the most expensive schools in cities with high costs of living to obtain their dream degree with no job prospects upon graduation "deserve" that.

    With both healthcare and education: There's has to be a balance somewhere between rewarding people for making good decisions but still having a safety net in place for people who get screwed. I don't really know how to do this.

    So, this was long, but I just wanted to share some thoughts brought up by the comments. And I don't think marriage should affect any of this!

  42. I have no advice to offer, but it makes me so upset to see the mess of the US healthcare system. I have never been more grateful for the NHS as I am now.

    • WORD. Surely, healthcare is a basic human right. It makes me so upset to read about people not being able to afford to do things like… give birth for example… in the U.S. That shit is messed up 🙁

  43. I have never felt so lucky to be an Aussie…good luck with your situation, however it pans out. Be strong and try not to let others judgement upset you. I can't believe the American Healthcare system. It's disgusting.

  44. so you know how if two people get married JUST so someone can get a green card that's fraud? well, unfortunately, getting divorced JUST so you can get government benefits (aka FASFA and insurance) is also fraud. I mean, sure you can roll the dice… but you could also end up in jail… :/

  45. It has been a while since the original poster posted this question… Jessie, can we get an update? You have been on my heart and mind ever since I first read this. How are you doing?

  46. Most of what I was thinking has been said by other posters. However, I recommend that you find a part time job that offers health insurance. Paying for health insurance for the employee is much cheaper than paying for a dependent. For instance, a part time employee pays $82.45 per pay period (twice a month) for insurance. When a partner is added, the cost is $181.69. That's nearly an additional $100 instead of an additional $82. Most plans run like this. Even if all your part time job did was cover your insurance, it would probably financially work to your benefit.

    You should also look at the $ amt that you pay for premiums vs. how much it would cost if you didn't have insurance. How much is each dr's appt? How much are your medicines? Does your pharmacy offer discount programs for those without insurance?

    I do not have insurance. I see the dr approx. once every 3 months ($120/ 3= $40/ month). I have monthly meds, but use Walgreen's wellness plan which cuts my costs in half or more. My monthly meds cost $45 total for two meds. So, I should be saving at least $85/ month to put towards my health costs. If I used my insurance (since I am considered part time), I would pay $82.45/ month plus everything would go towards my high deductible. Also, my meds would be $90/ month without the discount. So, with insurance I would be paying approx. $212.45/ month.

    I don't know what medical care you need, but it's worth doing the math to see what can be done. You also have more bargaining power if your money is in savings and you can pay upfront. Most places will give you a cash discount.

    One last note, when applying for benefits, most places will required your 'household' income, not your 'married' income. I had to report my husband's income before we were married because we were living together.

  47. There isn't really a whole lot to say. Seems I'm being slammed for the most part. There was one poster that noted about if I drop out and work a "Mcjob" then I'm liable for paying back my student loans. Yup. They're right. I have too much debt in student loans to afford to work a low paying job. It would literally wipe us out if I was hit with student loan payments. Someone mentioned about how maybe we should down grade or something on our housing (sorry there are 107 comments and I'm going partially on memory). We bought a house in Cleveland Ohio in order to have a lower cost of living. We pay probably less than most of the readers on here as far as our mortgage goes unless they are also in the midwest. I have a number of medical issues that now that I have health insurance I can no longer afford to have any of them looked at because we can't afford what the bills will be. A couple hundred here, a couple hundred there. It all adds up. The money runs out eventually. I haven't had a skin cancer check since I had skin cancer. Why? Cause I can't afford the bill after what the crappy health insurance pays. They don't pay a whole lot. I only got unsubsidized loans this year because apparently we're rich enough to not need subsidized or grants. People judge, but no one fully understand a situation unless they're in it. I don't NEED to be married to my husband to know that I love him. I do thank everyone who didn't immediately bash me though. And everyone else, I hope nothing bad happens to you so you don't have to see what we are going through in our lives. Our systems are broken. And no one is in a rush to fix them. Sometimes people need to do what they can to survive.

  48. My partner and I don't know if we will be getting legally married when we have our wedding, and it's mostly because of financial concerns related to medical concerns. I don't envy your situation, and I certainly don't have a problem with people getting legally divorced and staying committed to each other based on WHATEVER criteria they want to use to do so. Your situation, your choice, your responsibility to deal with the consequences–including getting divorced when the consequences aren't what you were lead to believe they'd be.

    That's not to say you shouldn't check with a lawyer to see about fraud charges; regardless of what they are currently, morally I feel there shouldn't be. Then again, I don't agree with marriage being a legal institution at all. These kinds of issues could be avoided if all it took was saying "hey, we have separate finances, please don't include his income in mine because our house doesn't work that way," and maybe a nice little bank statement showing that his name is not on your account, which is all I needed to prove my roommate was not my husband.

  49. I know I am a bit late but this is interesting. I just need to say as much as I do complain about the Aus healthcare system (medicare), its is awesome! as are interest free higher education government loans!
    and now for my 2 cents: I can defiantly see both side of this, you gotta be able to go to the doctor sometimes but marriage is not (in my opinion) a thing to be entered into or out of lightly.
    I just wonder will you get married again later? how much will that cost? would you do it again and again depending on your financial circumstance?

    • I'm curious what you ended up doing because I find myself in a similar situation. My husband and I have already lived apart for 2 years because it's all we could afford to do. Our divorce has even been paid for. My health concerns have spiraled and with his income we appear to make money but we really don't. My medical bills cost more than that. But it seems if we were divorced I could get insurance at a lower cost. Because right now I can't afford it at all.

  50. My husband and I are thinking about doing the same thing so we can reap the tax benefits and also I can go back to school. We won't break up or anything. I am up and down about this. Don't know what to do…:

  51. I wish this was a newer conversation as this seems to be the only place to bring up a subject people seem to be so crazy about. I am an atheist and have been a firm believer of Buddhism with studies my entire life. I really respect people deep in their faith but I am against anything that forces beliefs such as the institution we have no choice but to be in. My husband and I have been together for twelve years and going on our 8th wedding anniversary. Our anniversary is and always will be the day we met in person and made our commitment to each other then, not a ceremony we were forced into. We love each other more deeply then the day we met and that won't change.

    My husband is from Italy. For two years we went back and forth talking about visas and options to just be together. Neither of us would have chosen to marry each other but to just commit to each other in the Buddhist way without the paper. After almost three years of this, we were tired of two countries and married. This is just the beginning of our entire lives being dictated by all these religious and government dictated paperwork. We lived in his country for some years and it was much easier. As an Australian said here, lucky he's not in this country. Italy paid for all healthcare for my children and I before our Permesso was even complete just by his tax id. My permesso took 2 months and literally a few hours at the local embassy while children are automatically added with the paperwork for the Permesso.

    When we decided to return to the US (basically because our children were getting into college years and wanted to return) we spent a gruelling 18 months apart until his green card could be given. After ending up here, we struggle all the time. Let's put aside the costs of living here with this precious little piece of paper that was shoved down our throats. The intrusive and judgemental process my husband and I had to go through (and still go through until he is naturalized-which we've already applied to but were told we would wait another year and half or so in reality for that to happen after the three years we've been here in the US): the interview was humiliating for both of us. We have to keep in touch with immigration for any move or job change. What does Italy make us do to maintain our Italian citizenship? Nothing.

    My husband lucked out on a 60 hour work week at a factory where we pay over 400 a month for health insurance with a thousand dollar deductible and huge stipulations for my daughter, whom had the best health care for severe asthma in Italy and now can't get the proper treatment because, of course, American doctors know everything and European doctors just aren't as modern with treatment. We don't get help and can't anyhow. We are taxpayers (and how, we live in NY and one of the highest tax counties in the US). We accept that and just keep struggling. We came to this country with a sufficient savings but between the thousands to just get the green card and the thousands we paid to have two households and live in two countries while my husband lost his job in Rome after a year of waiting on the green card, we've gotten a modest home and pay large taxes with little left but we live and get through it.

    But what always rankles on me is that pretty piece of paper so many people bash others for whom are not Christian or do not want to be in the majority group of Christian believers. People are so appalled at those that don't need this paper, the government, nor their God. I never would have married my husband this way. I don't want to be married to my husband this way and he never was a firm believer in the Catholic beliefs but studied Buddhism with me. I would divorce in an instant and forget what anyone is always shoving down our throats in how we should only respect this one belief of morals in government and religion. It does nothing but try to keep control of all citizens following how these people feel are the ways people should live and love and what morals they should have. But I don't have the option to divorce as it will be more judgement against us then even normal couples.

    I don't really even care about the consequences monetarily. This is going against every belief and moral I personally have in needing something from state and a God I don't believe in telling my husband and I that we are bad and will got someplace bad if we stray from our commitment. I am very much against this-my husband and I are very committed in our love and that's all we ever needed.

    I wait for the time we can divorce and live happily with our own morals without this belief and constraint held over our lives. My son is 20, lgbt and goes to church. With both our support. He wants the right to marry and looks forward to it and I cheered along with everyone when more states began giving rights to marry. I am also frustrated that there is the same government constraint and religious bias for him to marry as he chooses as well. Wouldn't it be great if we could live as we want and not be judged based on whom we love and our own beliefs without not only the government, but family, friends and even people on this forum yelling their own outrage and 'sadness' based on their own judgement of how a person should live? I got bashed and always will for being in the very small margin of people in this country whom dare to not view Christianity and marriage to be the belief and morals we should live by.

    I would hug the equal rights lawyer here whom so accurately stated there is something wrong with the system and that should be under attack. As far as holding someone for fraud for choosing to divorce, whatever their private reasons are for, is insane and just goes to show how much control citizens are having to live under. I can't even fathom the other comments bashing the op. This woman is obviously going through a lot. No one's attacking how anyone lives here in life and literally everyone struggles. I wondered what a bit of compassion and understanding would accomplish instead.

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