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From time to time, I meet with couples contemplating divorce. They want help with deciding whether one of them can afford to live in the house after they split, which inevitably also leads to a discussion about possible ways to reduce the mortgage and taxes. I don’t offer counselling, and I do warn the couple that they’ll need to discuss my ideas with separate attorneys, as at some point in the future, their interests will diverge.

The couple sitting at my conference table seemingly wanted to pick my brain just as many other separating couples had done. However, they threw in a bit of a monkey wrench when the wife said, “We want you to help us decide if we’ll get a divorce.” At first, I wondered whether she meant could they afford to keep the house, but the husband said, “No. We’ll stay together if we can’t afford to live apart.”

I said that my calculations could only determine a home’s affordability in the context of their wallets, and that the salvation or demise of a marriage was a much larger dilemma. Before making such a decision, I recommended that they speak with both a marriage therapist and a financial pro.

They both demurred, and the husband declared again that they’d agreed to give me the power to decide whether they remained married or started divorce proceedings. With my radar crackling, I emphatically declined to make that kind of decision. As I handed them back their paperwork, I said, “There’s no charge for the consultation. Good luck!”

Visibly miffed, Mrs. Stayorgo looked at me and then at  her spouse. “Let’s get out of here!” she said. “I want someone to make a decision on whether we’re splitting up by the end of this week.”

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