Should we get divorced but stay together?

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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.

Comments on Should we get divorced but stay together?

  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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!

  4. 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.

  5. 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.

  6. 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.

  7. 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!

  8. 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.

  9. 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!!!

  10. 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.

  11. 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!

  12. 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.


  13. 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.

  14. 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.

  15. 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.

  16. 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.

  17. 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.

  18. 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!

  19. 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 🙁

  20. 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.

  21. 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… :/

  22. 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?

  23. 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.

  24. 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.

  25. 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.

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