My husband left me and our two kids and won’t pay the mortgage. What now?

My husband of close to 20 years left me and our two children about a year and a half ago. I have two college degrees and worked while he got his college education, which was paid for by his parents. I paid our rent, and I cashed out my retirement account (I know that was a bad idea now) in order for us to buy our first home. 

Before our marriage, we both agreed that I would be a stay-at-home mom. On top of that, I ran my own business and worked several part-time jobs. When he decided to leave out of the blue, he said he didn’t want custody of the children and that I could basically have the house. Now it turns out that he still wants 50% of the house — but the kids and I need this house to live in.

We do not want to uproot the children, but that means I am stuck with the mortgage payment, utility bills and maintenance costs. When we sell the house in about five to six years, if we split it evenly, I will be screwed, because I am the one putting money into the house and I am the one making the mortgage payments, which are also going toward the principal.

Am I crazy for thinking that I should get a significantly higher percentage of this house when we sell? I am referring to things that are noncosmetic, such as seal coating the driveway before it crumbles and installing a new roof, heating unit, fencing, etc. These are all things that are required to maintain a house and also can potentially increase the value of the house.

He said he will not pay any mortgage or housing costs or contribute anything to fix the house and maintain it. I have full custody of our children, and he pays approximately $200 per child per month in child support. But he has left me in a quandary. Please help, and let me know what I should do. I am tempted to lawyer up. 

Holding onto Our Home

Related: ‘Buy a yacht,’ he told me. My fiancé, 67, is cutting his kids out of his will — and leaving everything to me. Should I be suspicious?

“The longer this goes on, the more difficult it will be to ensure that your estranged spouse pays his fair share.”

MarketWatch illustration

Dear Holding,

Give into the temptation. The time has come to take the gloves off. The sooner you bring a legal resolution to this situation, the better. You don’t say where you live, but all U.S. states except for Arizona, California, Idaho, Louisiana, Nevada, New Mexico, Texas, Washington and Wisconsin are equitable-distribution states, meaning assets in a divorce are divided equitably and fairly, if not exactly equally. 

The other states follow…

Read More: My husband left me and our two kids and won’t pay the mortgage. What now?

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