I supported my girlfriend during her recent studies. We are not married. She took 3 years from the inception of the program to finish, pass her board exams, and get her license to practice dental hygiene, despite the fact that it’s only supposed to be a 26-month program.
During this time, I paid the rent, utilities, food, entertainment, vacations, some medical expenses, toiletries, and other miscellaneous expenses.
Her mother covered some things for her, and her ability to take loans was restricted by previous undergraduate loans as well as lack of availability of federal loans due to use of grants in undergraduate.
Our relationship is unwinding. I have sacrificed greatly in order to provide for her. I could have paid for the remainder of my student loans, advanced my career by investing in continuing education and, of course, increasing my portfolio and retirement accounts.
Is there any legal recourse I can take when we break up, to receive reimbursement for my contributions to her living expenses? Despite me not paying a cent towards her actual degree, her living was majority financed by me (80% at a minimum). Her income is going to quadruple with her new job.
Restless in Maryland
Common law marriage does not exist in Maryland. There is no comingling of assets or community property or any legal rights attached to this relationship outside of marriage. Only a handful of states recognize that. And even for states that do have some form of common law marriage, the couple must have showed an intent to get married.
Plus, a common law state may have ended up costing you even more.
Your dilemma falls into that eternal question of whether these monetary gifts were considered gifts based on your belief that you would spend the rest of your lives together, or a loan. There is no paperwork for the latter and, as you clearly state, you did this because you wanted to support your girlfriend’s studies.
It’s a tough pill to swallow. She has been supported financially and emotionally as she furthered her education, and now she is ready to experience financial independence. You could ask her to repay you the money you spent on her rent and vacations during the time you were together, but I’m guessing you won’t get a positive response.
You would also set yourself quite a task calculating all the dinners and utilities.
But there’s a lot of things you can do to assess how financially secure someone is before you get serious, even if they’re starting out on the chosen career. More than 77% of people consider credit-card debt unattractive. On average, people say $11,525 in credit-card debt is enough of a red flag to swipe left or walk away.
Couples’ credit scores can also predict how likely it is that your relationship will last, according to a 2015 study of roughly 12 million consumers by researchers at the Federal Reserve Board, the Brookings Institution and UCLA. For every 105-point spike in that credit score there is a 32% drop in the likelihood of them separating.
Secrets are another no-no. Two-thirds of people in a relationship say they would consider breaking up with their partner if he/she had hidden a debt. When asked what amount of previously undisclosed debt would make them think twice about the relationship, 70% of people said they would consider breaking up with him/her for a hidden debt totaling $5,000 on average
At this point, you want to exit the relationship the way you came into it: with dignity. As one member of the Moneyist Facebook Group pointed out, “Consider that you both got an education: she, a formal education with a degree, you an education in life.” Your girlfriend’s rent and vacations were not your responsibility.
She accepted your gifts without question or any debate about fiscal responsibility. I expect her to leave this relationship in the same way. And what do you do now? If your relationship does end, wish her well. You went into it with an open heart and a belief that you were both in it for the long term. That isn’t the way it turned out.
Next time, have a conversation about your finances before you move in together.
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