I’ve been dating a wonderful woman for a while and we’ve began to talk about moving our relationship to the next level. She’s a single mom who’s never been married and I’ve been divorced for 4 years. She has a 7 year old daughter and I have a daughter who’s 12 and a son who’s 10. She has her daughter 100% of the time and I have my kids +50%. The dilemma going to the next level is where to live.
She has moved around since her daughter was born. She works and her daughter has been in daycare since she was born. Her daughter has been in a couple different pre-schools. The year before kindergarten she moved across the country for an engagement with a former long-term boyfriend and it didn’t work out. Her daughter then went to kindergarten in one town and then they moved to another town for first grade. During her first grade year, the daughter was evaluated for learning disabilities and attention concerns and will be getting services during second grade. My girlfriend loves the school system her daughter is in and wants to stay to finally provide her daughter with some stability in a good place.
When I was divorced, I moved into an apartment briefly and then bought a house that needed a ton of work when house prices were low and the mortgage rates were low. Since then I have completely renovated the house and it is in a nice neighborhood with lots of kids. I specifically bought this house because of the location. It is in the same town that my ex and I lived in before the divorce but it is in no way like living next door to my ex. The kids had friends from school in the neighborhood before I moved in and they can take the bus to school from either my ex’s house or mine. If one of the kids has forgotten a something at the other’s house or takes the wrong bus home from school, it is a quick drive to the other’s house to remedy the situation so my kids don’t have to bear the logistical brunt of our divorce. I truly believe that they feel equally at home at either house and attribute this to how well they have weathered the divorce. I am so thankful I was able to make it through the financial hardship of my divorce and be able to end up affording this house especially for my kids.
The house my girlfriend is renting and my house are about 20 minutes apart. Her house is too small for me to move into – two bedrooms and one bathroom. So if I were to move to her town, we would need to move into a different house either way. My house has four bedrooms and two bathrooms and while not it might be a little tight, at least each of the kids can have their own bedroom. I would not be averse to looking for another house in my town after we’ve been married if we felt we could afford it and if my house didn’t meet our needs. It is in the town that my girlfriend works (although she has a good job she expresses she wants to find another job that pays more) and my girlfriend has three aunts with houses in the town with whom she is very close. This is the town I grew up in as a kid and my job is close-by as well. My parents are 10 minutes from my house and are very helpful to me as a single dad.
Financially we are both getting by but have to pay attention to our expenses. I’ve probably got close to $100,000 in equity in the house and am breaking even each month or maybe a little better. Her rent is about $500 more per month than my mortgage/taxes, etc and she’s got school loans for $80,000 which are about to come due. I think she will need to try to defer her educational loans for a year because I’m not sure she’ll be able to afford her current expenses and her student loan payments. If we were living together, I think our monthly expenses would look a lot better (this BTW is not some kind of arrangement of financial convenience, if I didn’t absolutely love her I wouldn’t be writing this). Additionally, her job has no health benefits and she has to pay for child care 5 days per week. My job has full benefits and because of my hours, I don’t need childcare.
I feel that although it would be yet another transition, by the fact that her daughter would be living with us full time, she would settle into my house and while her current school is slightly better, both schools are great. Because she would be attending school and playing sports in the town if she moved here, I think she would make friends and feel connected. My kids would still be going back and forth to my ex’s house but they would still have their “two homes.” If I moved to my girlfriend’s town, my kids wouldn’t have connections to the neighborhood like they currently do and wouldn’t be attending school there or playing sports there to help them connect to the new town and make friends. I think it would feel more like just visiting dad as opposed to it feeling like a home in a town they are connected to. My girlfriend’s daughter is going into 2nd grade and my kids are going into 5th and 7th grade.
Another concern my girlfriend has is that it may feel to her like this house is “my” house and not truly hers. (She felt this way when she moved across the country for her engagement to her former fiancé’s apartment for that year which resulted in them moving to a new house down there during that year.) I feel that when we get married we will both share the equity in the house (unless there was a prenuptial agreement which hasn’t been a topic for discussion) and we would both incur her school debt so therefore at least by law, it would be all ours. I realize that this monetary connection is not the same as the emotional connection to a home but it is something.
Her Plan: She thinks that we should get engaged and I should sell my house. We then should buy a house together in her town and when we get married, then we’ll move in together. Because I timed the market just right, I’m not really certain we’ll be able to afford and equal or greater house in her town. Likely we’ll have to buy a fixer-upper but again, I’m not sure we’ll have the money available to do a complete remodel on a house in her town that we could afford. I’m also not sure where I’d be living or where my kids would be staying during remodeling during the 50% time they are with me. It took me 6 months to do the remodel on my current house while I lived in the apartment.
My Plan: I think she should move here when we get married and see how we like living in this house/town and if we need a bigger house and we can afford it, we should moved to another house in my town.
We’ve been very caring with each other in trying to figure this out and it is tough trying to get unbiased advice from people we know. What advice would you offer?