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Suddenly Single


Last updated 1/20/2021 at 1:19pm

How do we split the dog?

Dear SharonAnn,

My soon-to-be ex-wife and I have come to a mutual agreement on our finances and possessions, but we can’t seem to agree about our dog, Duke. Since my ex got a job in a different state, it boils down to who keeps the dog. But we both love him, bought him together, and used to walk him together.

I work from home, and she will have to go to the office most of the day leaving Duke home alone. I’ll also have more disposable income, so I can easily take care of vet bills and other pet expenses. She will barely make ends meet as it stands. I think I should keep him, but she wants ownership and is willing to go to court to fight for it.

– Signed: I want the dog

Dear “I want the dog,”

Oddly enough, this is a fairly common issue between divorcing couples, and you are lucky it’s not about the children. From a logical standpoint we need to be thinking about what’s best for Duke, including the financial responsibilities.

However, emotions get in the way of logic. Your ex may take all of the sadness around the end of her marriage and focus it on the one point of keeping Duke. Or she’s angry, and this is a punishment for you. Or she feels she will be less alone with Duke around.

Whatever her reasons are, you cannot change her behavior even when you point out how Duke will be better off with all-day companionship. The question for you is do you want to spend your time and money to go to court and have a public fight?

My advice is to let her take Duke. In this way you leave the door open for her to change her mind. When you calmly say to her, “I want what is best for Duke, and if after considering the financial responsibilities you think it best to take him, then I will not stand in your way.”

I’ve discovered that when you put such messages in writing, like in a hand-written note, or email, then she will be able to read and re-read it later while not in the throes of hot feelings. She is more likely to see that Duke will be better off with you.

When you refuse a fight, you leave the door open for better communication in the future. Your ex could then change her mind without feeling like she lost the fight.

Dignity is preserved on all sides. Peaceable resolution will ward off bitterness, and Duke will be loved no matter where he is.

Making Ends Meet

My husband Keith passed away two weeks ago after a year-long fight with heart issues. He didn’t want a funeral or memorial service, so we (my daughter and I) had a simple burial right away. I’ve been involved with our bill-paying for the last year, and when I saw my big financial picture, I cried. Without his pension I’ll be living on a song and a prayer from month to month. I can’t sleep at night. Finding a job is not in the question due to health issues.

When I looked at my assets, I realized that I could rent part of my home and completely replace his pension. There’s no time to lose, so I loaded up the truck with the things I no longer wanted or needed. It took several trips to clear out years of our accumulation. I’m getting some painting done, and then I’ll have a nice space to rent out.

First, how can I find a trustworthy tenant and maintain a business-like separation? Second, my friends think I’m crazy to let a stranger come into my house. How do I explain?

– Signed: Learning Something New

Dear Learning,

I am sorry you are dealing with the loss of your husband. It must be hard to cope with money issues at the same time.

Kudos for facing finances head-on. Your questions about finding a good tenant are very perceptive. When I’ve been a landlady, I’ve found word-of-mouth, especially among my church friends, is effective for finding a renter.

Get an application in writing. Carefully check out references. Is the prospective tenant reliable? Pays rent on time? Reliable income?

Put the agreement in writing. When you put expectations and requirements in writing, then you have boundaries. I urge you to use a formal rental contract to protect yourself from potential legal issues. Boundaries set up in advance save you long-term grief. It’s helpful to talk to a landlord attorney who can supply you with a good contract.

It is best to have a separate entrance for the tenant area. If there is a way to create a kitchenette, then your part of the home can be completely private.

Bravo to you for finding a solution to your income shortfall. You can ask your friends for understanding and support because your financial situation is changed. Give yourself a big ‘atta girl’ for being willing to learn.

SharonAnn Hamilton, MBA, CFP®(retired), MSFS, CMC® journeyed in the suddenly single world for seven years (now happily remarried.) She now mentors suddenly single men and women, teaching how to build a strong financial, emotional and spiritual foundation for protection while processing changes and designing a new life going forward. Email: [email protected] for more info or to be invited to the next ZoomConversation.


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