Help for soon to be single mother with mortgage

My best friend asked me to try to find her some help.

She said her husband is probably leaving soon and she doesn’t know how to keep her house.

She has a mortgage and condo fees.

The problem is that she works part time and while she can take overtime fairly regularly, there isn’t a stable 40 hour per week job and the OT isn’t a guarantee. If she leaves her field, she may get 40 hours per week but she wont make the same money, so it will probably even out. Also, her job is for a medical center so she gets health insurance, even at part time,

She makes about $1200 per month. At the moment she gets $457 per month for child support but her ex is about to leave the military and she can’t guarantee he’ll be able to pay on time every month.

Basically, there’s no way in hell she can afford all her bills (which are just general bills - no credit cards) unless she finds a job making the same hourly wage she gets at part time, but at full time.

Is there any kind of help she can get (in MA) that will allow her to keep her house?

When her husband leaves (I should say IF he leaves but it’s pretty likely to happen) She’ll be left with about $2500 in bills per month but only $1200 per month in salary and hopefully her $457 per month in child support. Getting rid of her car is not an option. The $2500 per month is just the household expenses.

Is she doomed to lose her house? If she can’t pay it, there’s no chance in hell that she’ll be able to break even on a sale in this housing market. She and her husband just completed their bankruptcy but the house and cars are still left.

Ideally, she doesn’t want to lose the house.

Anyway, I think you have the necessary information. Thanks for any suggestions you may have.

This is a list of agencies and sources of information in MA that assist with foreclosure prevention:

Some jurisdaictions make the absent husband continue to pay the mortgage on the house. I assume this is not the case in pinko-liberal Massachusets?

Sadly, this is always a problem. When 2 people bring money into the household, there’s a lot more discretionary income than with 1. If she’s only going to have $1200+$457 a month, she has to find a way to live on that. There are no magic answers. The best she can do is start planning ahead and cutting anything as fast as possible - i.e. sell the condo asap for what she can get provided she does not go in the hole; money that is being spent now is money she won’t have later.

Good luck to her, and I hope she figures it out.

Here’s the best suggestion for her:

Get a lawyer. If she cannot afford one, one will be provided for her.

There are all kinds of things she can do, and a legal aid org knows all of them.

The other advice is, of course, to reevaluate her finances. Lots of people spend money on inefficient things.

But have her get a lawyer ASAP.

$1600 a month with kids is basically poverty if she lives in the general Boston area. It is cheaper in places like Springfield though. The hard truth is that she simply isn’t making enough money to support herself and the kids in any reasonable way and something will have to give at some point even if she is able to put some stopgap measures in place. I don’t really see how it can be done unless her ex pays for half of the house and even that would be very tight financially.

The most realistic answer is for her to sell the house, open up her skills to the entire U.S., and pack up and move. You can live on that much money in some places but it may be in a place like North Dakota. She could look into a combination of other programs to help as well such as food stamps. Massachusetts has a bunch of weird programs to help the truly poor but she would probably have to talk to a social worker to learn about all of them that may be available to her.

Unfortunately for her, I highly doubt any court will see things in her favor. The kid isn’t his so it’s not his responsibility to provide a house for him. Her actions since the wedding kind of make people less than sympathetic toward her.
I told her that she should just stay with us until she has some money saved, and let her husband have the house since he can afford to keep it. But, she doesn’t want to take her son out of his school district. :rolleyes:

I’m not sure her husband even wants the house. He can easily go live with his parents or get his own apartment. What does he need with a big condo?

She’s in central MA. It’s still not enough, even without a kid.

It’s funny you say North Dakota though. She lived there during her first marriage and I think she’d live in a homeless shelter before moving back there.
I think they both need to give up the house and she needs to live as cheaply as possible until she finds a better paying job, or full time at the one she has. Sadly, she is one of those people who absolutely refuses give up what they already have and I can see her digging herself into a really big hole.

Let’s keep that kind of comment out of GQ, please.

But in North Dakota, the 1200 a month might not even be findable. That’s the flip side of moving to a place where living is cheaper: pay is lower too.

Congodwarf, you mentioned “large condo”.

Any chance she might be willing to get a roommate? While that carries its own issues, it might make enough of a dent in the monthly costs to help her keep paying the mortgage.

I know several single mothers who have done this successfully.

If the kid isn’t his then why is she expecting any child support after the divorce? Or is her child support from the bio-dad?
I’m a little confused, is it the one who is leaving that is in the military or is it the child’s biological father?

If there is an ex-husband with any kind of custody/visitation rights she may not be able to change the child’s residence (school district) without permission of the court or agreement by Dad. Once there are custody/visitation issues, things like moving can get pretty complicated for custodial parents.

It doesn’t sound like there is going to be much choice with the house regardless of who wants it. I am unfamiliar with MA divorce laws, but if it were in my state (and a few others of which I am aware) depending on the length of marriage she would have no claim to spousal support (which I know has not been mentioned) and the house would be handled like this: if one wanted to stay, they would have to buy out the spouse’s share (and refinance in their own name removing the spouse from the mortgage/deed); if neither wanted to stay the house would be sold and proceeds would be split between them (either 50/50 or proportional shares depending on other factors) even if that sale was for less than what was owed or less than the original purchase price. Neither could force the other to stay and/or to take over the mortgage.

It sounds like she has gotten herself into a pickle here. I don’t know the programs available but I have never heard of any (in any state) that will provide $843 per month, every month indefinitely and that is just for household expenses (does that include food, car repairs, school supplies, clothes?).

Personally, I don’t see any way she could make it work with the mortgage, at least not for any length of time.

The “find a roommate” is the best suggestion I have seen so far if she is determined to stay put.

I’d like to reiterate that she should talk to a (free) legal professional in her area who will be much more familiar with state aid, divorce law, and housing assistance available to her.

Sorry. I’m from Canada, and MA has a reputation as a very liberal state as the USA goes. If anyone has progressive divorce/support laws, I would have thought they do. It was a humourously affectionate comment, not mean. Some things are lost in transaltion on a keyboard.

However, my main comment stands. You are right, she should cut her losses and bail from whatever she can as fast as possible. But if that’s not his kid, good for him for even any support. BTW, in some jurisdictions it is possible that a perosn “becomes” a parent and acquires an obligation to a child if they act like his parent for long enough. Depends on the hue of the laws in MA. Not that I have much sympathy for that sort of law.

I suppose the other question is, can she get a second part-time job? Otherwise, she may yet end up in a shelter - or North Dakota. Considering that North Dakota is south of many Canadians, my sympathy for her position on that would be limited; although I don’t know where in ND they have the army or AF bases, so I assume it’s possible she was literally in the middle of nowhere with a howling wind.

When you see the train coming, it’s best to get off the track in plenty of time.

Again, good luck to her.

I don’t see how the math on her income adds up: $1200/month would be less than $7.50/hr at 40 hours/week. I know I’m used to WA (where minimum wage is $8.55) but surely she could find something better than $7.50/hr?

Is she not collecting Advanced Earned Income Credit with her paychecks? At her income level with kids, that should put about $400/month more into her pocket without having to wait until the end of each year for a big refund all at once.

Maybe she could sublet the condo to someone for a period of time?

Getting a roommate or two might be a workable option. (She and her kid can share a bedroom, if saving this condo is really her only goal, it might be worth it)

OP didn’t mention what the reason for the split with the ex is, but if the reason is that she’s involved with someone else, perhaps the someone else could step in and help. Or perhaps she could hit the ground running on the dating scene and find a replacement husband to help with bills? (I’m reaching here, lol)

In the meantime, she should be liquidating all the assets she can, and living on beans & rice. Keeping that condo sounds iffy at best, but every dollar retained will help.

I thought she is only working port time. But then your statement still applies. If she is working 20 hours a week at $14/hour then she could still maybe find a part-time minimum wage job for 20 hours a week to make up the difference (a bit).

I think this sounds like excellent advice, but I would advise against liquidating anything that could be considered “marital property” or she might find herself in a position of having to reimburse her husband for the value (or half the value or however the property laws work in MA). And I would advise talking to a lawyer…yesterday, to ensure that she stays within her rights and doesn’t make things worse for herself in the long run.

Income - $1200 per month is for part time, after taxes, and all other deductions. Her net is $600 every other week. I think she might be making $15 or $16 per hour. I know she was making more than me before I lost my job and I was making $14.10.

Child Support - From her first husband, the one who is about to leave the military and move back home to MA but doesn’t have a job lined up yet.

Current husband - They’ve only been married 2 years or so. He loves her son, even though he’s not the biological father. But, the boy has a father who is soon going to be on the same side of the country. I’m not sure the step-dad will stay in the picture.

Moving without permission - As far as I’m aware, she only needs the father’s permission to move if it’s out of the country. She can certainly move anywhere in New England without his say-so.

Roommate - I actually was going to suggest that. The only problem I can think of is that I don’t know if she even knows anyone who needs a place to live. Getting a stranger for a roommate is a kind of difficult decision to make when you have a small child. I’m not sure she’d be comfortable with a stranger.

Other options -

  1. She can move in with us (we wouldn’t need rent - just help with the food costs). She could rent out the whole condo for probably $1200 to $1500, depending on how desperate the renter is. She would only have to play the balance and the condo fees, which would be less than the cost of a small apartment in the same town. The problem for her is that she’d have to put up with us for at least a year, until the lease runs out. But, in that time she’d hopefully come up with a better job and some savings which would allow her to move back into her house.

  2. They sell the house and cut their losses. She can then get a small place or stay with us to save up some money.

  3. He takes the house, buys her out and she uses that money to get another place (I don’t think this is going to happen).
    Lawyer - I’m pretty sure she already has a lawyer from when she was dealing with custody issues with the ex. I don’t know if they’ve talked about this situation yet but I’ll make sure she knows that she should.

The ex - Things had been borderline hostile with the ex until recently. They are now getting much better and are actually friends. He seems to be looking forward to coming home and being closer to his son. Relations between the ex and the current husband though - not so sunny.

On the roommate issue - the condo is large compared to the condo I had been living in. It has 3 bedrooms but the third is very small and is on the sub-level (next to the garage). The other two are on the second floor. The half bath is on the first floor and the full bath is on the second floor. Other than that, there’s a galley kitchen, a living room and a dining room. Any roommate would have to sleep in a very small room, with not much space for their possessions, and for showering they’d have to go up two floors. Not many people, short of a friend doing a favor, would actually pay for that IN ADDITION to living with a child.
If it were up to me, she’d let the house go, move in with us for 6 months, save as much money as possible, and then get her own place. I think that if she explains the situation to the school in her town, they might allow him to finish the year as long as she provides transportation. She’d be able to go back the following year and her son would never have had to change. But, to do this, she’d have to share a bedroom (a large one though) with her son, and we only have one bathroom. But, my boyfriend and I are two of her best friends and her son loves us so I think we could all manage for 6 months or so.

I think she really wants to try to find a solution that will allow us to stay where she is and I can understand why. I just don’t think it’s going to happen.

Your a good friend to try and help your friend figure this out.

I was in the same situation a decade ago but it wasn’t divorce but disability that lead to my loss of income. I had a hard time parting with my house because I bought it for the kids and me and to retire in.

Hopes and dreams though don’t pay the bills and as others have done the math it can’t work or work for her for long. A good friend told me, “Home is wherever you hang your hat”. I didn’t see the truth in it then but I do now. I was putting too much emotion into keeping the house instead of being realistic.

I ended up selling my home and putting in for low income housing. It took a couple years but now I only pay one third of my rent and get help with the rest. I didn’t ruin my credit and have a nice apartment much more modern then my 1870’s cape. I don’t have any upkeep to worry about and all new appliances.I also have one floor living which is good for my condition.

If she lives in MA she should put in for housing immediately because the waiting list is years long. It won’t be easy to sell the house in todays market but get it on the market right away.

Good luck and hope it all works out.

That income is high in my area - so she is better off than some people.

I don’t have a home - but can she renegiate the mortage?

Apply for energy assistance.

Cut out all the extras - and I do mean all.

No cable tv - no cell phone - reduce the heat and temp on hot water.

Sell stuff on ebay and craigslist.

I think she might qualify for snap if she doesn’t get child support - but they will force him to pay of course.

Maybe move someplace cheaper to live.

Really she is lucky to be making that kind of money. Minimum wage is 7.25 an hour. I know the cost of living is higher there - but many people are earning far far less.

Well, she did pay over $20,000 for her job training so that she could make that money. She’s not working at McDonald’s after all. She’s a medical assistant.

There’s no chance of refinancing the house. They have a recent bankruptcy and the house is probably worth less than they owe - they totally bought at the wrong time.
I’m going to pass along the suggestion about the lawyer and basically tell her that there’s not a whole hell of a lot she can do other than to apply for various kinds of aid. But, since the majority of her problem is the house and there’s nothing to be done about that, she might just have to give it up.

Thank you all for your responses.