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Moral obligation towards someone who has withheld money he owes me


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Old 22nd September 2018, 9:08 AM   #1
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Moral obligation towards someone who has withheld money he owes me

I think my question fits here the best, it's a question about ethics and morals. I'm not sure what to do, I need advice.


Background before the question:
My ex husband and I separated in 2002, separated our assets over time and officially divorced quite slowly. The significance of this is that until now, 2018, we maintained a good relationship. Never got back together in any sense, I know his girlfriend, we shared a social circle until now, etc.


We owned a flat in my home city for several years before I sold him my half, he never paid me because the agreement was that this amount would be my super rainy rainy day fund, only to be touched when everything else failed. We are not talking life changing sums but enough to pay my mortgages and other expenses for about 6 months without me earning anything else. He could use it as long as he liked, as long as he was going to pay me when I needed it. We did not agree to a notice period.


My ex husband's financial situation was not an issue here, he is pretty rich and it's not an issue in this question either.

As I have been changing my life around quite a lot, have started my own business, etc, I couldn't always earn as steadily over the last 2-3 years and I mentioned to him in January that I would possibly need the money. I wasn't sure whether I would but I asked him how much notice he would need. We agreed on 3-4 months. Come March, I said I was giving him the notice that I would need the sum. I asked him what amount he would be comfortable starting to pay me, I did not expect him AT ALL to come up with the lump sum, in fact I was happy for him to spread out the amount over a couple of years. I was going to stick the cash in a savings account.

I asked him to give me a figure he was comfortable with (ie me putting him in a difficult financial position was not an issue here). He completely shut down the conversation. He told me that he would never give me the money because he didn't owe me anything and started screaming at me.

This was very stressful as you can imagine because for years it had been my backup fund and while it's not a lot of money for affluent people, at that time in my life it was significant.

I found another way to give myself a cash backup, him and I owned land in my home country that was in my name. I sold everything - this is for other reasons too, keeping the land was very impractical for me, probably reached peak value, etc etc. (Not relevant for this question.) He doesn't know that I sold the land and it wasn't a straight forward thing to do, it was touch and go for a while, agricultural land can be tricky.

The money I have made on the land is far more than what he owes me, I was going to split the money with him 1/3 for me 2/3 for him - but of course as we are currently not on speaking terms, I have the money right now all to myself.

I received a text from him recently stating that he was going to pay me back.

My question is: do I owe him? If he proposes to pay me the money he owes, do I pay him the money I technically owe him? (all in my name, based on trust, he has no legal claim on it).

How long do I have the moral or ethical obligation to give him the money from the land? Does it still exist? I'm in a much better place with my business than I was early in the year (not related to the land sold) but he doesn't know this. I could be bankrupt for all he knows.

TLDR: my ex husband chose to withhold money he owes me, I now have cash where technically about 2/3rd belongs to him. He doesn't know. Do I have moral/ethical obligation to give him the money I owe him. It's roughly triple of what he owes me.


Thank you.

Last edited by Emilia; 22nd September 2018 at 9:12 AM..
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Old 22nd September 2018, 9:27 AM   #2
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Why don't you send him the net?? The money you owe him minus the money he owes you... Can you prepare a spreadsheet detailing the transactions?? If so, include that with the "net" check to him.

In my life, I've always paid every dollar I owed, regardless of the circumstances, and regardless of the other person's actions.

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Old 22nd September 2018, 9:35 AM   #3
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If you are officially divorced and there is no legal document saying you have to give him the proceeds of the sale of your land then the money is ALL yours..
Why would he have any legal ownership of your land after the divorce is final..it's not even in his name so no quit claim deed would have to have been filed.. it's yours..

The wording in your divorce decree probably spells out that you have a right to live a life free and clear from him and selling your land is doing just that.

Just ask him for the money he owes you and move on from there.
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Old 22nd September 2018, 9:38 AM   #4
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If you have no legal paperwork about the money he owes you then forget about it, move on.. he may be saying he owes you nothing because there is no legal reason for him to pay you.
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Old 22nd September 2018, 9:42 AM   #5
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Originally Posted by Happy Lemming View Post
Why don't you send him the net?? The money you owe him minus the money he owes you... Can you prepare a spreadsheet detailing the transactions?? If so, include that with the "net" check to him.

In my life, I've always paid every dollar I owed, regardless of the circumstances, and regardless of the other person's actions.

Karma

Just my opinion...

Thanks, HL

I guess, by the same token, you could argue that it's karma biting him.

One thing I omitted is that by not paying me, he has not lost money on the land, it's probably roughly the amount he paid all those years ago.

It's whether I owe him any profits, I suppose.
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Old 22nd September 2018, 9:46 AM   #6
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If you have no legal paperwork about the money he owes you then forget about it, move on.. he may be saying he owes you nothing because there is no legal reason for him to pay you.

Thanks AC.

This is all purely about ethics. Technically we both owe because we had verbal agreement but nothing in writing. However, going down the legal route, by British law if the debt is older than 6 years, there are no legal ways of claiming it anyway.

I've thought about it a bit more now that I've typed this up and it comes down to whether I feel I owe him a share of the profit.
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Old 22nd September 2018, 9:49 AM   #7
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I've thought about it a bit more now that I've typed this up and it comes down to whether I feel I owe him a share of the profit.
IMO, you don't owe him any profits.. it was your land, in your name and sold after the divorce was final...
I wouldn't even feel guilty about it, he knows you owned the land and he also knows he has no claim to it, he knows its yours...

Last edited by LoveShack.org Moderator; 22nd September 2018 at 10:10 AM.. Reason: spelling
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Old 22nd September 2018, 9:59 AM   #8
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IMO, you don't owe him any profits.. it was your land, in your name and sold after the divorce was final...
I wouldn't even feel guilty about it, he knows you owned the land and he also knows he has no claim to it, he knows its yours...
I think this is true, he knows he has no claim on it.

While he put money in the purchase, all the work had been done by my family and myself in terms of upkeep, paying fines when a piece wasn't cultivated, etc for about 20 years. We also kept all the income as well that those renting the land paid.

The significance of this is that in similar cases British courts favoured those whose name the land was in when they were also responsible for all the upkeep and managment - thus acted as owners.

Last edited by LoveShack.org Moderator; 22nd September 2018 at 10:10 AM.. Reason: fixed spelling in quoted post
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Old 22nd September 2018, 10:06 AM   #9
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Do you actually need the money you asked him to give you back?

Can you explain the situation as you laid it out here, ie you managed to come up with the short-fall you needed by selling the land and given you / your family did all the paperwork etc associated with it, you feel you should only give him a small part of the profits made?

Last edited by littleblackheart; 22nd September 2018 at 10:11 AM..
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Old 22nd September 2018, 10:13 AM   #10
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So do you actually need the money you asked him to give you back? Can you not explain the situation as you laid it out here, ie you managed to come up with the short-fall by selling the land and given you / your family did all the paperwork etc associated with it, you feel you should only give him a small part of the profits made?
I didn't need the money in the end because my business was awarded a nice fat contract so I sorted out my obligations that way.

However, reasons behind selling the land are quite complicated. Some of it was financial - as value probably peaked for various reasons that would be too boring to explain here - but also the fact that some in my family started abusing the system and sign my name to documents I knew nothing about. I think no-one with any common sense want to be in that position.

There was also an ongoing court case against one of the tenants as he was accused of corruption - nothing to do with us - and there were various court cases against him that I didn't want to be pulled into, obviously.

My ex husband was not in the position to help with any of this and he had no inclination either.

Not sure whether this answers your question.
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Old 22nd September 2018, 10:23 AM   #11
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I didn't need the money in the end because my business was awarded a nice fat contract so I sorted out my obligations that way.

However, reasons behind selling the land are quite complicated. Some of it was financial - as value probably peaked for various reasons that would be too boring to explain here - but also the fact that some in my family started abusing the system and sign my name to documents I knew nothing about. I think no-one with any common sense want to be in that position.

There was also an ongoing court case against one of the tenants as he was accused of corruption - nothing to do with us - and there were various court cases against him that I didn't want to be pulled into, obviously.

My ex husband was not in the position to help with any of this and he had no inclination either.

Not sure whether this answers your question.
It does, thanks. I think if you don't need it anymore, your exH agreeing to help or not becomes less important. It would be the perfect excuse to cut all financial ties with him for good - I would personally give him what I feel I owed him and consider it square but that's up to you. I understand that he put you in a bad spot for a bit and was a little unreasonable in his original response but he did offer to pay back in the end.
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Old 22nd September 2018, 10:28 AM   #12
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It does, thanks. I think if you don't need it anymore, your exH agreeing to help or not becomes less important. It would be the perfect excuse to cut all financial ties with him for good - I would personally give him what I feel I owed him and consider it square but that's up to you. I understand that he put you in a bad spot for a bit and was a little unreasonable in his original response but he did offer to pay back in the end.

I don't think it was a little unreasonable, I think it was theft - at least morally.

He sent a text saying that he wanted to pay it at some point. There has been no follow up on it and it's possible that there never will be.

You are right though, it is best that there are no financial ties anymore.
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Old 22nd September 2018, 10:32 AM   #13
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Correction, I have just re-read his text from 30th July: "...Although in principle yes I think if there was money available I would have been looking to pay you back."






that seals it, I know what I'm going to do: nothing. I'm keeping it all.



Thanks everyone!!!!!!!
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Old 22nd September 2018, 10:43 AM   #14
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Thanks, HL

I guess, by the same token, you could argue that it's karma biting him.

One thing I omitted is that by not paying me, he has not lost money on the land, it's probably roughly the amount he paid all those years ago.

It's whether I owe him any profits, I suppose.
I base my actions on my conscience and I don't compare myself to others. When it comes to money, I try to do the ethical thing.

If his karma bites him, then that is his problem and he has to live with that.

I'm not going to attempt to understand all of the real estate transactions, divorce decree or marital separation agreements that may or may not apply. If you feel you, ethically, owe him some money (net of what he owes you) then write the check.

As far as the profit, maybe use the date of your divorce and estimate the value (as of that date) for the basis of the land and calculate the profit off of that figure??
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Old 22nd September 2018, 10:46 AM   #15
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I think when marriage ends, so do any "verbal" agreements made during the marriage.

That's why we have written divorce decrees, they spell out each party's obligations, thus removing the uncertainty you've described here...

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