Dear Margo: I Vote for Symbolism

Margo Howard’s advice

I Vote for Symbolism

Dear Margo: I don’t know what to do. Last December, my boyfriend proposed to me. We planned a small, simple wedding to take place in the early fall. Then, a couple of weeks ago, I found out I am pregnant. While we are happy, it suddenly changed everything.

Legally marrying is going to hurt us financially right now, and we have to consider the baby and how to best provide for it. It’s too late to call off the wedding, and after much discussion we decided we don’t care if the government acknowledges us as married. We would rather be married in the eyes of our friends and family.

We still want to go through with the ceremony — but not tell people about the non-legal aspect. Our parents are the only ones who know. We aren’t registering or asking for gifts. When people ask what we want, we tell them we just want everyone to have a good time. We felt this way even before the baby came into the picture. Is this wrong of us? We plan to go quietly to the courthouse as soon as the situation changes enough to make it reasonable to be legally married. Are we wrong? — Faux Bride

Dear Faux: These days, there is no “wrong” when it comes to tying the knot and having babies. There are shotgun weddings, babies without weddings, weddings that are really parties, parties that are really weddings and white bridal gowns that accommodate a pregnant belly. Whoever thought the day would come when people would decide to marry only when their children made the request? It’s the commitment that counts, and your concern for finances makes your decision the smart thing to do. Happy non-marriage and happy baby to you both. — Margo, festively

A Weighty Question

Dear Margo: I am in college, and my longtime girlfriend decided to take a gap year. She is finally coming home after not having seen each other for a year. It was our decision to Skype only occasionally; thus, she has not had a chance to see the 20 pounds I gained this year.

Ordinarily, this wouldn’t be a problem, but she lost her father to a coronary due to weigh-related issues. This, understandably, made her super health-conscious about herself and me. Because of this, I don’t know how to break the news to her. Should I tell her before I see her or try to explain myself after the fact? I love her, and I know she loves me. I certainly don’t want to lose her because I’ve been careless about my health this year, nor do I want to seem like I’ve totally disregarded her lifestyle choices. How shall I proceed? — “Henry” (not my name)

Dear Hen: If I were you, I would not resort to any kind of advance warning system. That would simply cloud the homecoming and build up a negative vibe. It would not be good to email something like, “It will be so great to see you. And by the way, don’t faint, but I might remind you a little of the Pillsbury doughboy.”

I would suggest, probably at the moment you see her eyes widen at the sight of you, that you say you missed her so much that you were acting out in the bakery department, but you’ve already started a program to drop those 20 pounds. So start — right now! — getting a handle on the situation by working out or joining Weight Watchers or whatever will get you back on the road to healthy eating. — Margo, speedily

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Dear Margo is written by Margo Howard, Ann Landers’ daughter. All letters must be sent via the online form at Due to a high volume of e-mail, not all letters will be answered.


Every Thursday and Friday, you can find “Dear Margo” and her latest words of wisdom on wowOwow

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76 Responses so far.

  1. avatar Amanda ECW says:

    A marriage license is usually around $50. The fee to get the marriage done at the courthouse is usually around $150. You can’t afford $200, yet you can afford to have a reception?

    • avatar Sleepwalker says:

      I’m wondering if it’s more for tax purposes, or in terms of help they might not qualify for when the baby arrives.

    • avatar Mjit RaindancerStahl says:

      In my state, the marriage license is acquired in the last 30 days before the wedding. She’s had plenty of time to plunk down deposits on everything else.

      Mazel Tov, LW#1. Best wishes for a happy, healthy Family.

    • avatar burdlysc says:

      “Legally marrying is going to hurt us financially right now” I take that to mean it is not the cost of the wedding but finances after the wedding.  And quite frankly the only reason I can think of where getting married would hurt someone financially is in getting government assistance.  Qualifying for collage loans could also be a reason but  seeing as they were going to get legally married before the pregnancy I do not think that is the reason. 

      • avatar wendykh says:

        Some insurance programs do this as well.

      • avatar elizabeth101878 says:

        Actually, getting married has more financial benefits than remaining single. Once I married, and especially once I had children, I found that I qualified for Pell grants and other financial assistance, because I was considered an independent student. I’m not sure exactly why it is that they can afford the party but not the legal part to actually wed.

    • avatar persey78 says:

      My credit is shot and my BF’s job requires a good credit score. We will not jeopordize his employment for any reason. Now we don’t plan on getting married EVER for many reasons but if we did, we wouldn’t until I have my credit score up and that will take years.

      Now if she is doing it for government assistance that is not acceptable.

      • avatar Rustie says:

        Persey 78 What state do you live in?  Your credit score is yours and yours alone. Married couples do not share a credit score.  Your BF’s credit score is his alone. His job cannot discriminate against him in any form or fashion beacause of your credit score.  A lot of married couples, including myself and my spouse, have individual accounts and individual credit. Not wnating to be married is one thing, but no being married because of being misinformed is another.

        • avatar Briana Baran says:

          In community property states, credit scores are shared after marriage, as are debts. You are not responsible for any debts incurred before marriage by your partner, nor are their assets accrued before marriage, or yours, community property.

          In other words, here in Texas, if your spouse maxes out credit cards you got after marriage, and defaults, even without your knowledge, the debt is yours, and so is the blow to your credit score. The same applies if he does this with HIS credit cards that he got after marrying you. Been there with an irresponsible spouse, done that, also worked in debt collection.

          It all depends on the state you live in. I know California was once just as bad, and Louisiana is community property.

          • avatar Kathleen Hein says:

            I live in California, a Community Property State. My lousy credit score does not effect my husband’s good one. Period. I know this from experience.

            And I always think lying to people is wrong. LW1 knows full well that’s what she’s doing, because everyone WILL think she’s been married, legally. And she knows that “we just want you to have a good time” will mean big fat checks. Being married only improves your finances if you are looking for gov’t assistance, and I really wish they’d stop handing out that assistance to people who are living with their baby daddy- it’s supposed to be for people who really need it, not those who want to live a better lifestyle than they can afford!

          • avatar fallinginplace says:

            @Brianna: You’re confusing credit scores with debts for which you have legal responsibility. If the credit card is held jointly, then its payment history affects both parties. But credit held in your spouse’s name does not affect your credit score. Marital property laws only come into play if you get divorced, not while you’re married. I know this from both personal experience and legal training. –A Texas lawyer

          • avatar Briana Baran says:

            No, because we went through that, and both our credit scores took a hit. Of course, that was ten years ago, and I know the laws have changed, and we don’t have any plans to give it a try just to find out, if you know what I mean. I know that when I got divorced the first time, I had a lot of trouble A) getting any credit in my name because of HIS bad credit (and yes, I had my own cards) score, and B): that during our bankruptcy (with my current husband) my and his personal credit cards were paid, but did not help either of our credit scores, which were identical, even though we each had separate credit cards.
            I do know laws have changed, but I have had personal experience with this, and used a lawyer, too.

          • avatar David Bolton says:

            Briana is correct about sharing credit scores—a friend of mine just had the same problem with her husband’s affecting her own in the purchase of a house. And even if the credit score isn’t shared in the case of an unmarried couple—it might as well be at certain times. My partner and I had to apply jointly for an apartment because we were both going to live there. His credit sucked, mine was great. He had a job, I’m a student. The only thing that got us the apartment was that the manager was gay and liked both of us and met us personally. Otherwise we would have been rejected.

        • avatar persey78 says:

          Yeah I get that, companies can also not ask a woman if she is pregnant but they do anyways. We want nothing to jeopardize his employment, so even the chance of it is enough. We also could move to any state so if the laws are different we don’t want to be caught off guard.

    • avatar aud-ball says:

      it’s called the marriage tax penalty.. they will pay more out in taxes… a lot more…..cost of their deductions for medical insurance will increase… in some cases getting married is financial suicide.

  2. avatar Constance Plank says:

    I’ve read #1 differently than the rest of you. When my ex and I got married, the serious part of it in terms of government was the license, and then the justice of the peace, or the minister. My take on this letter is that, since there are serious tax implications by being married, that they’d go ahead with the church wedding, and eventually get married according to the law.

    After all, the legal wedding is all that matters, tax-wise.


    Constance in the Sierra Foothills of CA who actually gets marrying in the sight of God, but not in the sight of the Gov.

  3. avatar devenvasko says:

    State Laws should be double checked! Some states have common law marriages. All they have to do is call themselves married & they are legally married. A room full of witnesses would do it.

    • avatar luna midden says:

      The only reason I can think of were the LW can not afford it being legally married is-if she is married, it will be harder to get WELFARE, MEDICAID AND FOOD STAMPS… Social Services demand to know who the father is, and they will test. If you do not supply them with possible naes, I believe, but don’t quote me, your ‘payouts’ are reduced or cut. Reg. Health insurance-If you are married, you can still just take a single plan with your employer-it will be changed to mother/child when you give birth. I know a few women, men who have single plans despite being married.. due to both having health care plans and the their contributions are too high.

      BUT-what is shameful is this lying to guests and their PARENTS LYING along with them. 1st of all, if this has to do with welfare, food stamps, the parents are helping to lie so THEY WILL NOT BE HIT UP FOR AS MUCH MONEY FROM THEIR KIDS… But, if this is about welfare, medicaid, etc. social services will ask the lw if she is with the father and if she says no,, she is committing FRAUD. If they go and investigate where she lives and her parents say she is here by herself, they are committing fraud. Even if either set of parents does not lie-they are still helping to commit fraud.. just to save money or not to spend money… GREAT WAY TO START OFF A NEW LIFE!!!! 

      As for gay couples, they were not allowed to be legally married until a few years ago in a number of states and they still can’t be married in alot of states… and this IS NOT A QUESTION ABOUT GAY COUPLES AND MARRIAGE-unless anyone here knows of a way for gay couples to have one accidently get pregnant. 

      The thing is, Marriage is a beginning , a fresh start. and this LW is starting off with a lie. possibly fraud and bringing a baby into it. sad, very sad          

  4. avatar Jennifer juniper says:

    “Legally marrying is going to hurt us financially right now.” Yeah – right. The license doesn’t cost that much relative to a wedding so we all know what this means. Are you wrong? YES – you are wrong. You’re making a choice to stay legally single so that you can sponge more money off the government even though in every respect you will be a married household. If you can’t afford a child, you shouldn’t be having a child.

    • avatar Deborah Key says:

      Are you suggesting she become “unpregnant”? 

      • avatar Jennifer juniper says:

        I wasn’t but I’m not sure what your question is getting at. She could have an abortion – that choice is legal, unlike a choice to commit welfare fraud.

        • avatar Pinky35 says:

          I seriously doubt she would get an abortion because she loves the man she is with and even though the pregnancy wasn’t planned, a baby could be a pretty important part of her life. I also doubt she is concerned about how much it costs to get a marriage license. She is probably doing this because of tax purposes. You get a larger tax deduction for being “head of household” than if you file married. A “head of household” is when you are a single parent. So, maybe this is why she doesn’t want to make it legal at this time. She also does say that in time they will get legally married. So, let her do what she wants. She doesn’t have to tell anyone about it because in everyone’s eyes, they are still just as committed to each other and now will be bonded with a baby. Give her a break.

    • avatar chuck alien says:

      Hence the “what’s best for the child” she throws in there.

      It’s not welfare fraud… She’s not married. That’s it. Legally married is all that counts, by the government’s own rules… And she’s not. So no fraud.

      She’s following the rules, and taking better care of her baby. Why be mad about that?

      • avatar butterfly55 says:

        It is welfare fraud if they are collecting it but living together, even thought not married.  That is the most obvious type of the fraud.

        • avatar Bookworm says:

          I originally asked the question and am somewhat shocked and hurt that everyone assumes that the only reasons I could have would be to “sponge off the government” or commit some kind of fraud. I guess I never realized how common it was for people to do that.
          Although even with our combined incomes, were we married, we would normally qualify for government assistance including WIC, insurance and food stamps, we are getting none of these and my child will not be supported by any of those government programs. But being able to afford the child on our own without assistance means that we can’t legally get married.

          • avatar Amy says:

            I’m still confused, Book. You don’t say this is for tax purposes, but unless both you and your fiancee make close to minimum wage, I can’t imagine how you A) would qualify for welfare even WITH your combined incomes, and B) how moving up a tax bracket would suddenly make it impossible for you to raise your kid.

            You also never said if you were using birth control or not when you became pregnant. I’ll save my judgment until that becomes more clear.

          • avatar toni says:

            Dear Bookworm, so sorry your letter set off such a firestorm of discussion (and criticism) that had nothing to do w your circumstances. Enjoy your day of commitment, and congrats on your new baby!

        • avatar persey78 says:

          Being I worked for my local DHHR you are wrong in my state. When they were asked the question many applicants were nervous about answering it, but they couldn’t lie and they got the same services living with someone. I think, and I never asked so this is a guess, that the states interest is the child. And something happens the state can still take care of the child. The child is the only thing that is important.

  5. avatar Donna Sampson says:

    The financial issues may have something to do with insurance instead of taxes. Possibly, she has been on her parents insurance plan and planned on changing to his once they were married, but since she is now pregnant, his company may deem it as a preexisting condition and not cover her pregnancy. I feel it has nothing to do with the cost of license since she had already planned on getting the license.

    • avatar Cady McCowin says:

      That’s not quite how pre-existing condition waiting periods work. You are subject to pre-ex if you have had NO insurance within the three months prior to obtaining a new policy. If you switch from one policy to another, you only have to show the current insurer that you were previously insured under another plan, and that negates pre-ex waiting periods. Additionally, many insurance companies do not consider pregnancy a pre-existing condition. If this is an insurance issue, the couple should make sure they understand their current and future coverage options before deciding not to get married just because of that.

    • avatar Megan Freedman says:

      Actually, even if she was on her parents plan, no plan covers dependents of dependents. The pregnancy and the baby would be non-covered due to the fact that she’s not the covered employee, but rather a dependent.
      As long as she has HAD insurance, she would not have Pre-x on his plan due to change in life status. Also, the birth would be covered because there is no pre-x exclusions allowed on anyone under 19.

      <—Insurance Agent, 15 years

    • avatar persey78 says:

      When I was pregnant 13 years ago pregnancy was not considered a preexisting condition.

  6. avatar Katharine Gray says:

    Re LW#1:  I at first thought the *financial* reasons had to do with taxes but it  doesn’t sound like the couple make enough money to worry about tax consequences.   I gather they have found a friend who will pretend to be a licensed officiant as I’m thinking that it might be difficult to find a real minister or judge (or any other person with the authority vested in him/her by the state to marry them) to participate in the charade.  I suppose health insurance might be one financial reason but then if they are so destitute there is always Medicaide.   It really doesn’t matter to me what they do.   If I were a guest at their wedding (giving a gift or not) and later discovered the ruse I might feel a little used but I am not. 

    Re LW#2: Twenty pounds is not the end of the world but Margo’s advice to start a weight loss regimen before your girlfriend gets home is sound.  Typically men lose weight more quickly than women (I assume you are a man because you used a male name).  A sound weight loss regimen should have those 20 lbs off in a couple of months or so.       

    • avatar martina says:

      Actually, I believe that our pastor would paticipate in that “charade” and would marry the couple in the eyes of God but not legally.  I believe that he would find it more important to marry them in the eyes of God and not in the eyes of the Government.  He has performed a few same sex marriage ceremonies even though they are not recognized in our state.

    • avatar wendykh says:

      It is not a charade anymore than performing a religious wedding for two gay people in a state where that’s not legally recognized is a charade. It is also not a ruse or a fraud. We really need to stop this notion that the only valid marriage is one recognized by the government. What a scam. Legally marrying is simply registering your lover with the state. It would be best to have government out of the marriage business entirely. The important part is actually the marriage and wedding, not the legal contract. There are hundereds of thousands of not legally registered marriages out there more than valid. Stop buying into this government control of the marriage industry.

      And I can’t believe this guy is freaking over 20lbs. I hope she shows up with an extra 30. Unless he’s got a bird frame and is under 5’6″ it probably won’t even be noticable.

      • avatar LuckySeven says:

        The only legally valid marriage should be the one registered by the government, and registering it is as far as the government should go. People who want to be married by a church only should be able to do so, but forego any legal benefits marriage might incur. It’s religion who should give up control of the “marriage industry” (and it does, or legalizing gay marriage would have happened already because the pious religious nonsense could be overlooked). Marriage was historically a legal and financial contract, anyway; this “love” bit is a recent luxury.

  7. avatar Belinda Joy says:

    Letter #2 – “Henry” the right thing to do is to tell her now in advance of seeing her that you have put on 20 pounds. It’s not like you said you put on 200 pounds, you put on 20 pounds. My first suggestion to you is to be gentle with yourself over that relatively small weight gain.

    Where I do agree with Margo is you need to start taking it off. But not for her. The concern I would have is that you are saying she is fitness conscious so you fear the concern she will have. If she loves and cares for you when she sees you we both know your real fear is not going to be “Oh my Lord you gained weight and you know my dad died from weight related issues!”   Of course not, you know your primary concern is that she won’t be attracted to you anymore. Come on, be real.

    If she is not attracted to you anymore because of 20 pounds of additional weight……that says a lot. Be a man, be direct, tell her now “Sweetheart I have put on weight since we last saw one another and I am going to try and get to the root cause of why and make a vow to change. Not for you, but for myself because this isn’t healthy.” A real woman would respect you for that. Never change for others.

    Letter #1 – Everything about your letter smacks of hidden agendas. Something doesn’t pass the smell test. Clearly you are not friends with any Gays or Lesbians, because your cavalier attitude about “not caring if the government acknowledges your marraige” is quite interesting – given the current fight by a segment of America that wants a basic right which is being denied to them. Marraige is a sacred vow and should be entered into seriously and thoughtfully. 

    All of your talk about it not being “financially” appropriately now but that you will proceed with the festivities of it for the sake of others that want to see you two marry is …….weird. You sound like you are trying to pull a scam on the government, your friends and worst of all you lack the moral compass to see it for yourself and instead have to write Dear Margo for her perspective on this dishonesty. How odd……           

    • avatar Deborah Key says:

      I had a friend in high school who lost her college scholarship because she became pregnant.    We really don’t have enough details to make judgements here. 

  8. avatar hillidaa says:

    I knew a couple where the wife had a debilitating illness that cost a large sum to treat/maintain. Because she was single and disabled, she did get assistance from the government.

    If she were to marry, the simple fact that the household had an income would eliminate her treatment assistance.

    The man she “married” had a full time job, but didn’t make near enough to cover the cost of her treatment, let alone support their household.

    They had a “mock” marriage for this reason. Yes, it takes advantage of the government, but in a system where the act of marriage could deny her all medical treatment – let’s just say I don’t think it’s a cut & dry argument.

    • avatar Deborah Key says:

      Agreed  – my religion has a blessing ceremony for same-sex couples for use in states where same-sex marriage is not recognized. . . and it is the same ceremony used to perfom so-called normal marriages with the exception of a few word “by the power invested in me by the state of ______.   

  9. avatar Cindy Marek says:

    L #1: No, not at all! 🙂 You both sound very responsible and reasonable. You’re doing what’s best for your child and finances. And imo there’s no need to be privately apologetic. And why not accept gifts, if people want to give? Yours won’t be a “lesser” union. Your original intention was for a “small and simple wedding; thank God for your sanity and rationality against so many of today’s self-centered/tantrumy “Bridezillas.” Best of wishes to you, groom, child.

    L #2: Twenty pounds, particularly at your young age, shouldn’t be too difficult to lose with some discipline and exercise. If there’s an underlying health-related issue to that weight gain, see the campus doctor.

    • avatar LuckySeven says:

      Responsible . . . except for the apparent failure to use birth control. Doh! If you can’t afford to get married, you can’t afford a baby, and they should have been more careful in the first place.

      I’m not religious: This is economics. If you’re that strapped for cash, you don’t need to be having kids.

      • avatar Deborah Key says:


        I am living proof you can get prenant while using birth control.  My parents referred to me as their little surprise vs accident. 

        That baby is coming regardless of their circumstances.   The issue at hand is how to deal, not condemn. 

        • avatar Kriss says:

          & my cousin is 6 months pregnant w/ an IUD baby (IUDs are supposed to have the same prevention rate as the pill.  I’ve known people who have gotten pregnant after being sterilized—there is a brief window of opportunity shortly after surgery—just further proof that no one form of BC is fool proof)

  10. avatar Kathy says:

    I am so tired of hearing that people can’t afford to get married, or don’t have the time to get married, or aren’t ready to commit to getting married – yet they have kids!!  The primary financial benefit of not getting married WHEN YOU HAVE A CHILD is that only the mom’s income will be considered in getting government assistance.  There would have been tax and/or insurance consequences anyway – child or not.  So, we’re talking about a oouple who want to have a kid, a big ol’ party, and then let the rest of us pay.

    • avatar luna2012 says:

      I’m with you here. No party. Save for your kid. Get financially responsible. Get real LW1.

      I am not sure if the LW1 was using birth control. If one is not ready to have a child, one should be vigilant about birth control. Or otherwise be prepared for the consequences.

  11. avatar luna2012 says:

    I do not understand how they would get hit financially by being married. I would love clarification. I don’t think they would qualify under taxes because it doesn’t sound like they make enough. Perhaps insurance like others mentioned?

    I am not a fan of the idea of celebrating a non-legal union in this manner. People will give gifts even if you don’t ask. You should tell them the truth. I don’t agree with Margo’s advice here at all.

    Lastly, I do not understand how you can be ready for marriage and all that entails and getting pregnant would derail those plans. At the very least, be honest with the people you invited to your celebration. Do what is best for your child.

    • avatar Deborah Key says:

      One of my students was preparing to get married until she discovered that it would change her eligibility for student loans and grants – technically her household income would go up but it would not be sufficient for her to go to school.   

      She was one of 7 kids and qualified for a fair bit but that would have changed once she got married.    They ended waiting until she graduated. 

    • avatar Megan Freedman says:

      Its not the insurance.

      It could be any of the following:
      WIC assistance
      Food Stamps
      Student Loans

  12. avatar JCF4612 says:

    1) Am fascinated over the part about “legally marrying is going to hurt us financially right now.” How long is right now? Until the end of the year? And for what reasons? Sponging off the government? Or qualifying the baby under your current insurance plan? Why not deep six your faux wedding plans, redirect the money for the wedding toward your married life obligations and marry quietly when the time is right. Guests at your faux wedding won’t be pleased when they find out it was a sham, and they will find out sooner or later. 

    2) Men I’ve worked with have always been able to drop 10 or 20 pounds faster than women in office weight-losss contests. Why not try to drop at least half of your gain before she shows up?  

  13. avatar Cadwaladre says:

    Re LW1 – I give LW1 credit for not using her wedding mainly as a means to get gifts, as so many people seem to these days.  However, inviting friends and family to your wedding and not telling them you’re not really getting married is still lying to them.  Whether she decides to get legally married or not, she needs to be honest about what she’s doing.

    • avatar Deborah Key says:

      Agree – call it a commitment ceremony or a blessing ceremony or something. . . most people will understand.

  14. avatar Sheri Dedmon says:

    Uh, the people condemning them for not marrying legally because of financial reasons really need to take a cold look at the world. I know for a fact that marrying would absolutely screw someone in my position over (I’m on SSI for a medical disability). I can’t live with anyone that makes an income that the SSA deems as satisfactory to take care of my needs, I couldn’t live on my college campus (asked my case worker and she said they could interpret it as the school providing me 75% of my housing and providing for me), etc. So maybe they have a situation similar to mine or are in a bind where they’d lose money or be exempt from programs (I am in that scene too). No, not all financial aide packages or loans get improved by a married status either– ever heard of grad school? I know a number of grad students who got disqualified because they were married and said spouse made too much money. oh and as to the independent clause? So before judging and blasting (and lamenting the need for a ridiculous piece of paper), look at all the angles. You might see that they don’t add up to 180 degrees.

    • avatar luna2012 says:

      No. Having a disability is different – I don’t that is the case here.

      Oh, and not getting financial for school because you are married? Ok, then getting aid is more important than being married. We all have to pay the same costs, and many of us take out private loans to pay for school or go to a cheaper school or whatever.

      This couple were fine with getting married but having a child derailed that. Why? Being legally married is better for the child because of the benefits and protections – it’s a sore subject for gay couples who cannot marry legally. I sense something off in the letter and many other commenters did too.

  15. avatar Michelles11 says:

    My parents were LEGALLY married first…my father met my mother in a foreign country and was employed by the U.S. military.  They got legally married first just to get her on his insurance, benefits blah blah blah and had a church wedding a few weeks later.  Of course, being quite religious, they did not consider themselves married until the church ceremony.  There are lots of reasons for doing things one way or another.  I don’t really care, and why everyone is in an uproar is beyond me.  A lot of seniors do NOT get legally married but get married at their churches because of financial considerations.  I don’t blame them.

    • avatar butterfly55 says:

      S0 true about seniors!  My mother and stepdad lived together for 15 years, he passed away recently.  If they had married she would have lost money she received from my dad’s retirement.  And at their ages pregnancy was not a major worry so they believed as long as they were committed to each other there was no reason to hurt themselves financially just by getting a piece of paper.

  16. avatar modjeska says:

    LW #1 – I always feel compelled to give this warning to people in this situation, as I was there 16 years ago. If you’re pregnant and choose not to marry, you MUST immediately have legal proof of paternity established and ask your significant other to make you the beneficiary of all life insurance policies in effect. When I found myself pregnant during an engagement, we postponed the wedding as I didn’t want to be a pregnant bride. A month later, my fiance was killed in an auto accident. His parents- not I- benefited from his life insurance policy and a wrongful death suit. The judge eventually granted my son a share after we established paternity, that will help him enormously when he turns 18, but I was left alone and struggling to raise him while his grandparents built a new house and traveled. If you don’t want to marry, don’t, but cover your bases legally as soon as possible.

  17. avatar lebucher says:

    My first thought was that staying single and pregnant meant she could receive welfare and Medicaid.  And I have not had another thought.  This type of sham is rampant in FL.  I know of several doing it.  They live together and combine finances as if married, but she’s collecting those benefits and popping out more kids.   A friend of mine from MN was ticked that her BF’s son & GF are engaging in exactly the same sort of sham marriage (A destination one, at that) for the sole purpose of milking the government benefits.  Apparently there is no shame among the young in collecting welfare benefits.  After all, it’s “FREE” money, right?  <sarcasm>

  18. avatar Bookworm says:

    I asked the first question, and to clarify, I’ve never been on welfare and have no intention of getting it. Our situation is very complicated, and we are barely making ends meet as it is, without a baby. We decided at first we didn’t care if we were “screwing ourselves” but once the baby came into the picture we decided we had to put it’s welfare and needs first over our desires.
    And as several of you have pointed out, I definitely would not recommend having a baby that you can’t afford. We were using protection properly and it failed us. But ending the pregnancy was not a choice I was ready to make so we decided to do whatever we could to provide the best life for our child.
    In the relationship I earn more money and am more reliably employed. I’m also currently under my parents health insurance, although it won’t cover anything regarding my pregnancy or the baby. However I plan to add the baby to my plan once it is born. Here is where it gets complicated.
    On paper, I am part owner in a company that makes enough money to where I don’t qualify for any state help at all and I don’t ever get any tax returns. This is not reflected in my actual income though, so right now it’s hurting me. In the future if the company is sold or it gives a payout I will benefit, or my child will benefit, but who knows when that will be? If we get legally married my husband will also not get his taxes back. Even if it’s an extra $1,000 a year we could desperately use it with the baby on the way. He also can only get insurance through the state at this time as his employment is often only seasonal, temporary or part time, whatever he can manage to get. He wouldn’t be able to be added under my insurance so if we got legally married he would not be able to get health insurance at this point.
    Finally, being a part owner in this company makes me a target for lawsuits, etc., and would make him a target as well. We decided to be safe to split any assets and put some in his name and some in mine, so that if we had any legal problems or financial problems we wouldn’t be left with nothing and our child would still have something.
    It’s not a perfect plan but we are trying to be smart about it and make sure that between us we all have insurance coverage, enough money and our property.
    I don’t feel that it is a “sham” in that we are not trying to defraud anyone in any way. We want our family and friends to be there to celebrate and recognize the commitment that we are making to each other and to our unborn child. The government involvement in the situation is much less important to us, and I’m glad that Margo agreed with us.
    We aren’t sure when it will make sense to go and get it legalized, hopefully as soon as we are in a better financial position. In the mean time we hope to continue to make logical and rational decisions, and not decisions just based on emotion.

    • avatar luna2012 says:

      I appreciate you coming on here and explaining (and reading our comments even if the comments aren’t the nicest). I’m glad to hear you are not on welfare.

      Marriage provides the best protections for your child, so I hope you can at least do some legal protections outside of marriage (contracts or whatever, depends on your state). I understand you want to celebrate your commitment to each other, but I would clarify with your guests that it is not a wedding celebration. You will be receiving gifts regardless of not asking for gifts, and guests should not be under the impression it is a wedding party.

      I believe in marriage. I didn’t always believe in it so I understand where you are coming from. Good luck.

    • avatar Hellster says:

      The only comment that makes any sense at all is “what the hell is the matter with you?”

    • avatar mmht says:

      Bookworm, I responded on this message board before I read what you had to say. Although I stand by what I initially asked, the truth is all of that is a moot point right now. You can’t change the past. I agree with Abby that symbolically marrying is fine, but I also agree with Luna that it should be made known to your guests before hand that this is not a legal ceremony. That could simply be remedied by calling it a Commitment Ceremony rather than a Wedding. I say this for 1 major reason: Luna is correct in saying that even though you requested no presents some guests will still show up bearing gifts and might feel hoodwinked if they find out later that you are not legally married. I actually read a letter from someone in either this column or Dear Abby who found out several months after her nephew’s ceremony that it wasn’t legal and they had no plans of making it legal. The aunt was furious because she bought them an expensive present that she felt they didn’t deserve and felt that they should return the gift to her (clearly, they had no intentions of doing that).

      I also agree with Luna when she said that marriage will afford certain protections for not only your child, but also your fiance/husband and yourself. I will be honest, my husband and I probably would not have gotten married if it was not for the legal protections offered to us both. Instead, we would have just continued on our lives living happily together knowing that we loved each other and wanted to spend the rest of our lives together. Therefore, I strongly suggest that you and your fiance/husband go to a lawyer and draw up some legal documents to ensure that your child and both of you are protected under law. Things to put into legal writing: who has the rights to medical decisions if something happened to one of you, who has rights to your child if something happened to one of you (I don’t know if most states automatically revert to the other parent even in cases of non-marriage or not), who has legal rights to your assets if something happened to one of you. I’m certain there are plenty more legal issues that you have to think about so please consult a lawyer on what needs to be made legally explicit and what doesn’t.

    • avatar Katharine Gray says:

      As stated above, I don’t really care one way or the other how you go about this but I must say I am alarmed that you are *splitting assets* to avoid potential liability in lawsuits against the partnership because this means you are giving property to him (it makes no sense to put more property in your name to be subject to attachment) so I hope it is not anything of considerable value like real estate.  If he decides to move on (which he can do very easily since you are not married), he takes the property with him and there will be very little you can do about it.  Granted, if you married and divorced, he may end up with it as well, but at least you would have a fighting chance to get it awarded to you in court.  So, this part of your plan seems very unwise to me.  

      I also cannot help but wondering whose idea all of this was and if you have consulted a tax advisor, checked into the cost of a *catastrophic* health policy for him , etc.   

    • avatar Lila says:

      Bookworm, why the heck are you listed as part owner in a company that brings you no income but exposes you to lawsuit risks and takes away your ability to get tax refunds or certain benefits? You’re being punished by the IRS on the assumption that you are making a certain amount from that company. And yet you are not.

      First thing I would do, Ms. Company Owner, is look into making that company a Limited Liability Company (LLC), which severs personal assets from company assets. If there is a lawsuit against the company, your personal assets have some protection.

      Second, if you are missing out on cash dollars in the form of a tax refund every year, and yet you are a part OWNER of that company, is there some reason why the company can’t at least match those losses in actual money?

      Third, if none of that can be worked out, get your name off that dang company header. SELL your share if you can. Unless you’re convinced it’s the next Microsoft or Apple. Right now, it’s a financial albatross weighing you down. Make a logical business decision: get rid of it and its burdens, or make it pay you for your troubles.

    • avatar DCKathy says:

      Bookworm, I am also a part-owner in a company, and there are some things that jump out at me in your story. I’m glad you explained this and are taking the time to communicate with the people who care enough to respond to your letter. Here’s some information that might help you:

      1. You should not be liable for lawsuits if the company is sued. There’s insurance for companies and this company should have it. Even if the company is sued, the insurance can protect your personal assets. Additionally, the company can pay for umbrella insurance against lawsuits for you and a spouse and it’s a tax deductible business expense for the company.

      2. You should get a tax form from the company each year on how much the company made or lost. You should file this with your taxes. I presume you’re getting it if it impacts your taxes, but if not, insist on it. Study it closely as this form will also give you real information about how the company is doing, not just whatever the other owners choose to tell you.

      3. When you say you don’t get tax returns, I assume you mean you don’t get tax refunds. If the company makes enough money to show a profit, then you should share in that profit. If the company can’t share profits, the tax return they give you should show that money was reinvested in the company in such a way that you did not receive a share of it. Then you don’t pay taxes because there is no profit, and it doesn’t stop you from getting a tax refund on other income you make.

      4. I’m going to guess that it’s a small, family-owned company, possibly run by your parents. I can see why you can’t just sell your share in it and you might not want to. However, since you’re part owner, you should have access to the company’s accountant, lawyer and insurance agent. Talk to them and get some answers. Don’t have your parents treat you as a kid and tell you it’s not your business. If you’re part owner, it is. Please consider that if your parents started the business, their real concern may be that they don’t want your bf to inherit it, and so they may be giving you misinformation or not giving you access to the professionals who can clarify things because they don’t really want you to marry your bf. If that’s the case, there are things that can be done legally so that their concerns are satisfied.

      5. If I were you, I would set some goals for getting out of this situation soon. You need to gather all the facts first, and then see what it would take to get married. Does it mean making enough money to afford your own insurance? Is it a certain income goal? What’s your plan for getting to where you want to be? What’s your agreement with your bf on what the measure is for when you can get married?

      6. I would tell your friends that it’s a commitment ceremony. You may find that they ask the same questions that people are asking about here on this forum. You might want to develop a couple of sentences that calm them without sharing all of your financial information. You can see that people are fairly old-fashioned about being told the truth, even if it’s uncomfortable.

      7. Given your status as part-owner of a company, start looking into possible tax deductions you can take. For example, you might qualify for deductions if you pay your own health insurance, or when you drive your car, or even on meals you eat in restaurants if you talk about the business. You might be able to lease a car or buy a laptop and charge it to the business . You may find you have enough deductions to save you significant amounts of money. (Also, as an aside, can the company pay for you and your new husband and child’s health insurance as a business expenses for a part-owner? Or could they pay a salary to you as a member of the board of directors, at least enough to offset how much you would make on tax refunds if you weren’t a part-owner?)

      Finally, there are a lot of important reasons to actually get married. Studies show that children do better on a number of measures when their parents are actually married, not just committed to each other. There are legal protections for you, your spouse and your child that don’t exist if you’re not married, such as the ability to inherit from each other. If your bf is injured, HIPPA regulations may prevent the hospital from even letting you know since you’re not married. You can look up the research and laws yourself. Those are “logical and rational” reasons to get married, not emotional ones.

      Good luck to you.

  19. avatar mmht says:

    LW#1: I’m confused about “Legally marrying is going to hurt us financially right now…” Do you or your fiance have some debt that could be harmful to the other’s credit score? Is this for tax purposes? Either way, isn’t this something you two should have thought about BEFORE planning a wedding? Its like the baby came into the picture and suddenly you two decided that getting married was the worst thing you can do. It doesn’t seem like either of you truly have much foresight.

  20. avatar R Scott says:

    LW1 – I’m perfectly okay with folks not getting married in the eyes of the state and all that, however, if their grand plan is to not get married so that We The People… can foot the bill for the child I’m not so cool. Can anyone think of any other financial benefit to not getting married with a kid on the way? Is she also going to pretend she doesn’t know who the father is?

    LW2 – I disagree with Margo. Tell her now that you’ve changed. Or at least before she see’s you at the airport. If I arrived and saw my once svelt honey now just a honey pot it would really harsh the reunion. Some people (like me) don’t do surprises well which is something he may consider. And, yes I’m shallow and an increase of 20 lbs would most likely bother me.

  21. avatar Ghostwheel says:

    I don’t think most of the people commenting about how not-getting-married-can-only-mean-welfare-fraud understand tax filing. A single person with a child can file as Head of Household. The other single person can file as a single person. Head of household does not get as much of a break as married, filing jointly, but you don’t have two combined incomes when you file separately, hence lower tax bracket. You have two separate incomes. HOH gets 2 exemptions and itemized or standard deduction, single gets one exemption and itemized or standard deduction. Depending on how much money they make, they could fall into a zone where getting married costs them a considerable amount of money at tax time, just because of how the numbers line up. (it can be several thousand dollars) I know I’d rather put the money in a college account for my child than pay it in taxes.

  22. avatar finplan says:

    Bookworm, I’m a financial planner.  What you’re describing about your situation doesn’t sound entirely correct, and what you do describe doesn’t sound as “smart” as you’re admirably trying to be.

    Signing over assets to someone you’re not married to — especially if that entails you giving your assets to someone who is not financially stable, as your fiance does not appear to be — is generally an extremely poor choice.  If the reason for doing this is your paper involvement in a business venture you don’t even see tax returns on, then you need — absolutely, now — to address that issue.  (Why are you not getting tax returns on something that you’re legally obligated to?  That’s a huge red flag, especially if the business partner is a relative and saying, in effect, “trust me.”  Those situations often do not end well.)  You should not be in a position to be legally liable for something you don’t benefit from, and that needs to be resolved — with a lawyer.   You should not make a bad situation — your business issue — worse by going farther down a road that leaves you financially and legally unprotected.  You’re not fixing the problem by what you’re doing.  You’re making it worse.

    If your fiance is agreeing that you “split assets” because of an outside chance of a lawsuit that isn’t even on the horizon, then that’s the biggest red flag here.  He should be much more worried about your legal protection than I am.

    Bookworm, you sound like you must be very young (you’re still on your parents’ insurance) and a bit naive.  What you’re doing is not financially smart.  PLEASE see a lawyer, before you do things that are going to cause you to learn a very painful lesson — and potentially have a serious impact on your child.

    PS — I had a friend who did exactly what you’re considering.  They had a big wedding, never filed the papers to make it legal, and never told anyone.  We all thought it was a wedding.  When we found out later that they weren’t legally married, it ended friendships.  Nobody would have cared if they’d called it a “committment ceremony” but finding out we’d been lied to for years about something as big as a marriage was a dealbreaker.  Please don’t do that, either.  And if your fiance suggested that as well, then go back to my previous point about what a huge red flag it is that he’s agreeing to put you in such a legally and personally risky position.    

    • avatar Miss Lee says:

      I agree with everything you said.  I am a CPA and not seeing the tax returns of a business you are involved with – well it gives me a ‘hair on fire’ reaction.  This is not normal business practice and one can only assume that there is something VERY wrong with the business and/or the tax filing.  Also the previous post about looking into common-law marriage laws of your state is right on.  Going through a marriage ceremony and presenting yourself as married are the exact actions necessary to establish a common-law marriage in many states.  Get a lawyer’s advice is NOW not later.

  23. avatar Toni Cakes says:

    LW1- just change your last name. there won’t be any questions asked after the fact then.

  24. avatar BunnyinGlasses says:

    LW#1 – I’m not going to touch the financial aspects of your letter and comment, as what I know about taxes and business credit could fit in a thimble. However, even with my limited knowledge it sounds very strange and you really need to consult a financial adviser. But not getting legally married can potentially bite both you and your baby later.

    But what I’m reading, it seems, are a lot of excuses.

    What I do know is that your plan to not tell friends about your wedding is horribly, horribly rude, not to mention, possibly illegal. I would be completely honest and upfront–you are in a rough place with legalities, but are committed to each other and want a ceremony before your baby arrives. No need to go into details. Real friends would completely understand. Another poster was correct that this ends friendships. Do you really want to be talked about, 20 years from now, at Christmas parties and other family gatherings? You’re setting yourself up to be a black sheep and you child and future children *will* suffer for it, trust me. I also wouldn’t blame any guest that gave you a large gift, found out the whole event was fraud and sued you. Because that’s what this is–fraud.

    Sounds like you’re trying to have your wedding cake and eat it, too.

    Either cancel the whole event and marry when you can afford it, or be upfront and honest that this is now going to be a commitment ceremony. Keep it small and inexpensive. When you’re ready to actually tie the knot, then pull out the bells and whistles.

  25. avatar BunnyinGlasses says:

    Oh, I forgot to address LW#2 – I would not say anything to your girlfriend for one big reason–her reaction will tell you everything you need to know about your relationship. (And Margo is correct–this could cloud her excitement about seeing you. But…she should be excited about seeing you anyway, love handles or not…)

    1. Let’s say she blows up. You now know the deepness of her issues, her temper about something like this and how she will react when life happens and you gain a few pounds. And again, she should be happy to see you, excess weight or not.

    2. You do NOT want to live with the food police. One of the big reasons I ended my long-term relationship was that I was sick and effing tired of someone else’s food issues becoming my issues. I already had enough to deal with.

    3. While you should lose the weight for health reasons, do it because it makes you feel healthy and good about yourself, not because your partner is going to keep you in check. Again, you don’t want the fitness police–you want a partner.

    I completely understand where your girlfriend is coming from– I would want my partner to share my health and wellness values. But she can’t be a fanatic and punish you for weight gain. Sounds like you have a lot to think about, and I wish you luck!