Not Making Enough To Support 2 Households

My wife wants to move out on Monday (with a temporary separation agreement) and we are trying to figure out how to handle the finances of two homes.

I am the only one working and currently bringing in $75K a year, which is not enough to pay the bills on one house, let alone two.

She has been a stay at home mom of our two kids (3 and 5 years old), but after she moves out we will have 50/50 custody. I have a flexible job in which I can work when I want to, thus I can pick the kids up at 1 and 3 after school and spend the rest of the day with them.


  1. She pays all of her bills out of her half of our savings and I pay all of my bills out of my paychecks and my half of our savings?
  2. I pay half of her bills on her new house out of my savings even though I have to dip into my own savings to do so?
  3. Something else until we get a permanent separation agreement in place?

Any feedback would be greatly appreciated.

In case it matters, she wants to get a divorce. I do not. I still love her and want her to stay. She fell out of love and now wants to move on in her life. She feels I should somehow pay for her bills at her new house. I feel like she needs to go get a job and support herself since she is the one that wants out and wants to move on. Considering I’m not making enough to support one household, I don’t see how I can support 2 households without taping farther into my savings. And really, why should I have to pay for her expenses when she is the one that wants to move out?

Not a lawyer

Just wanted to add my 2 cents. I’m sorry about your situation. She definitely needs to pay her own bills from her half of the savings with your help until she gets a job. I always had part time jobs, but hadn’t worked in the corporate world since my 13 year old was born. What we did when he moved out was utilized the calculator on this website to determine what he would end up paying in child support and I covered the rest from my savings. Things were tight for both of us, but I was able to get a full-time job fairly quickly (surprisingly) that pays ok. When we used a mediator to come up with our separation agreement we calculated that he would pay me child support as well as a little alimony. Our mediator explained that alimony in NC is only paid for half of the duration of your marriage. We were married 17 years so I will get alimony for 8.5 years unless I cohabitate or get remarried then he’s off the hook and child support until the children are 18. Once she gets a job they will use her income to off-set the child support.

In my opinion, she wants to live on her own, welcome to the “real” world. It has been a difficult transition for me, but it has been ok.

Good luck!

Thanks for your feedback and your kind words Jennifer.

We are using the collaborative process and its not as direct and fast as we thought it would be because they keep trying to get us to come up with a solution that works for both of us. I.E. “Whatever you guys want to agree to is ok with us.” I’m self employed with a variable income so I think that is adding to the complexity of things. We have been married 10 years and I paid for her Masters Degree so I think alimony should only be for 2-3 years, but she feels her Masters Degree won’t bring in much.

My attorney feels that legally I’m required help pay her bills (support her)…but practically I just don’t have enough money coming in to do so. Thus, the only solution is to tap into my savings to help over the next 2 months and meanwhile sort out alimony via our usual meetings.

As a side note, she doesn’t want to get a full time job. She wants to work part time. And over time have several part time jobs. I’m not sure how realistic that is or if I even need to worry about it considering she is leaving and doesn’t want to be with me anymore.

So, based on your feedback, you would also recommend I help with her bills by taping into my savings until she gets a full time job? What if she never wants to get a full time job or says “I’ll get a full time job a year down the road” because she has told me that she doesn’t want to just go get any job, but that she wants to get a job she likes in the field she likes…she just hasn’t figured all that out yet.

I know its going to be a difficult transition for her too, and I want to help alleviate that strain (because I still love her), but is it really my job anymore?

Ultimately though, everyone I share my situation with says the same thing you did, she needs to realize that this is “the real world” where you pay your own bills if you don’t want to be married anymore.

also not a lawyer

Nano, sorry man…what you describe is exactly what I went through 5 years ago, and there’s nothing about it that’s easy. But hang in there, things do and will get better!

My ex was also a stay at home mother and didn’t want to work, and there’s nothing in the law that says she has to get a full time job (assuming she hasn’t worked in a while). It’s not fair and it may get you angry as heck but that’s the way it is.

I was directed by my attorney to get her off of all the joint accounts and on to her own (bills, checking, credit cards, etc)…that way she’s responsible for her own stuff now that you guys are officially separated. Now as a stay at home mother, where is she going to get the to pay those bills? Well, from a combination of alimony (yes, you will pay even though she's the one that left), child support, and whatever income she brings in on her own. The child support is pretty formulaic (see the calculator on this website), but the alimony is very subjective based on your income and ability to pay. That's where much of the debate will be centered on. Just remember that you will be one poor son of a !@# for at least a few years. Again, it’s not fair but that’s life.

As far as your emotions towards this woman, all that is very normal! Just don’t let your love blind you from making sound legal and financial decisions during this very difficult time. If you want to talk let me know…I’ve been through it all!

*** NOT A LAWYER ***

Whatever support you give her should be specifically classified as alimony and as child support, in a notarized agreement. If possible, it would probably be best for her to not move out until the agreement is in place.

The child support portion is easy, since the calculator is available. Since she’s planning to be voluntarily underemployed, she should probably have a reasonable income imputed for full time work based on her master’s degree. Your student loans and other expenses don’t count here, only expenses relating to the children such as what each of you pays for day care, health insurance, and so on.

The alimony portion is harder, because there’s no hard guidelines. But you can read North Carolina’s laws on postseparation support and alimony (the difference between the two, as far as I can tell, is that postseparation support is temporary while the divorce or alimony case is pending, and then alimony takes over once the divorce is final or an actual alimony order is issued by the court). Unless she cheated (and you didn’t), she’s probably entitled to some support since she was a stay-at-home mom. Again, her earning capacity is supposed to be taken into account when determining the amount, and a larger support (a lump sum, or a few months monthly) should probably be considered to give her time to find a job.

Something else to note, you don’t want to try to trade off less child support for more alimony, because she could just go back to court and seek that the child support be brought up due to the lower amount not meeting the needs of the children. And you probably don’t want to trade more child support for less alimony, both because alimony is tax deductible to you while child support isn’t and because it’s probably easier to have alimony modified than child support (unless you word the agreement poorly).

Also, BTW, you should really look at your bills and figure out what you can do without. Plenty of people made do on much less than $75K.

Based on the brief facts you presented, it does sound like you have some exposure to paying spousal support, but the solution that works for you will depend on your situation. I would first suggest that you child support calculator to calculate your child support obligation as that will help you reach some resolution.