Family moral dilemma


#1

I have a moral dilemma and figured I would post it up on here and see what others think.

My 60 year old mother has an incurable rare illness. She is on a lot of meds for it and sometimes has to have chemotherapy. She works fulltime as well as runs her own side business. My parents divorced 3 years ago. My father moved away and I am still close with him and my mom. My sisters took sides with my mother and haven't spoken to him since.

My mom kept their way too big house and because of it, even with the alimony she has to work fulltime and maintain this side business just to make ends meet as well as to try to keep up with the lifestyle she had before the divorce. With the illness she has, sometimes she is so debilitated she has a hard time getting around and the stress of trying to maintain this house and her lifestyle is making her illness worse. The fulltime job pays for the house and its upkeep alone. Its a 4000sf house! I've tried many times to convince her to sell it. She NEVER sees her grandchildren at all anymore because she works over 15 hours a day and weekends trying to maintain a lifestyle that she can't afford anymore. She's been in therapy forever but is just not able to let go of her past life with my dad.

The biggest problem with my mom right now is that she needs help because of her illness. My one sister and her husband are in deep financial debt, offered to move in with her and take care of her. Which I think is fine. The problem though, is that I know they cannot afford it and are really taking advantage of my mother financially. My mom, I think understands that, but needs the help because of her illness. They have thier own house that they are going to rent out because they cannot sell it because they owe a lot more than its worth. And they are going to rent it for less than their mortgage payment with the expectation that my mom is just going to pay the difference since they are going to split everything. I tried to convince my mom to sell the big house and with the profit buy a small ranch on my street where we can take care of her and help her. But my sister fought that because she needs to move in to my mom's house for financial reasons (though she will never say that). I'm not sure if she knows this by my mom offered the same situation to me but we tried to convince her to sell her house because we thought that would be the best thing for her, My sister does not know this.

I am absolutely ok with my sister and her family moving into my mom's house and getting the financial benefit of that because they will be providing the care that my mom needs. That is a very very difficult job and I am proud of her for stepping up to do it. But here is my real dilemma. My sister confronted me today and said under no circumstances can I tell our father that she and her family are moving in there because then he can get his alimony payments lowered. Also my mom is continuing to fight to try to get more money from him. I just told her I don't run back and forth between mom and dad telling them what mom and dad are doing.

After I hung up, I realized 2 things though. One, I will not lie. Two, by my sister and her family moving in there, and my dad continuing to pay more alimony, then he is in fact helping to support them and the financial indescretions. That in itself is a moral problem, but it is their moral problem, I guess. But if I just sit here and don't say anything, then isn't it my moral problem? Also, what happens when he eventually finds out? Where does that leave me?

I love my whole family, but I hate what this stupid divorce has done. And I hate that everyone expects me to play games, I have refused so far to play them, but this one I am really conflicted on.

My mom NEEDS that alimony money because of her illness. Even if she sold her house, she could still get it and be taken care of. The problem is that because my sister is moving in there so an arguement can be made to lower the alimony. The situation seems to me that my sister is the one who is to benefit the most from that alimony continuing at its present level.

I really wish I could just move away and remove myself from the whole situation. I hate that I am placed in the middle of all this.

I think I may end up having to have a converstaion with my mom about it. There are other family members out there that my dad could hear about this from. So I may just say to her that my sister told me not to tell dad, but she has to understand that I am not going to lie about it. And that there is a good chance he could find out from other family members anyway.

OK. I guess this has become of a venting session that anything else. But any comments or opinions would be appreciated.


#2

It sounds like your sister moving in with your mom will cause your mom to be in much worse financial shape. She will lose much of her alimony payements AND she will be expected to cover the gap between your sister’s mortage and what they hope to rent it out for (if they can even find a renter at all). The fact that your sister would ask your mom to cover her mortage is just shocking. If I were you, I would call your sister out on this for the sake of your mom. In my opinion (because there is of course no way for me to know what your sister is thinking) I don’t think your sister has your mom’s best interests in mind, she is looking for a way out of her own financial mess by dumping some of it off on your mom. If she had her best interests in mind she would not do anything to make your mom’s situation worse than it is now.
Also, I would not go along with your sister and lie to your Dad about the situation. That would definitely be deceitful and sinful, and if your dad finds out the situation your mom and maybe even your sister could be charged with fraud. If your sister insists on moving in with your mom, maybe you should take your mom up on her original offer and move in yourself. You could help your mom without asking her to take on additional financial burdens, and work out a way to cope with lowered alimony payments.
Best of luck to all of you as you deal with this dificult situation.


#3

I pray for you. I think you are thinking correctly about the moral issues. Be clear with everyone that you will do what is right and will not lie. Do not feel any guilt about doing it and offer the suffering that results (if family members get angry at you) to Jesus, and know you are doing what he has asked us so we can be with him.


#4

Wow. I didn't even think of the legal aspect of the situation and how it could be considered fraud. That's a great point.

I did call her out on it this morning actually. It went nowhere. The problem is that my mom and sister and my sister's husband are all extremely financially immature. The conversation I had went nowhere. They just do not see that this situation is doomed to fail. There are obviously a lot of other behind the scenes financial issues I have not layed out here. But in the end, and I tried to get my mom to see this, this entire situation is going to explode and my mom is going to be much worse off financially and physically because of the additional strain. If my sister were doing this for my mom's health alone, then what they could have done was sell my mom's house and she could have moved into their house. My mom would make 100G selling her house. My sister can't sell her's because she took out way more in equity than the house is worth now. WAY more and she will never be able to sell it.

The whole situation is really really sad. I will not move in there because it is not the right think to do. The house is slowly falling apart and my monthly payments to maintain the house (mortgate and utilities) would be almost 3x what I pay now. That's why I have been trying to get her to sell that house. I almost had her realized she is not that person any more and she needs to move on with her life and then my sister swooped in and cut this deal with her. I do no think my sister is a bad person. I think my mom and sister have codependant personalities and feed off of each other.

I think its sad. But I feel like I've done everything I can about the situation. I've spoken to my mom and offered to help her so many times. I've sat down and had the conversation with her several times. But you can't always help those that won't help themselves. But I will always keep trying.

What I am not sure about then is if I have a moral or legal obligation, now that that has been brought up, for that matter to tell my father about it. Or do I just stay out of it and if he ever askes me about it one day, then I can tell him.


#5

Your sister is an adult. She should not be mooching off her infirm mother. I think that your idea of your mom selling her house and buying the smaller one near you is the best plan in this circumstance.

Your sister and mother should not put you in a position to choose between lying to your father and betraying their trust. I understand how hard it is to be in that position, as my mom and sister put me there repeatedly when I was younger after my parents divorced.

Talk to your mom's doctor. Maybe the doctor can convince her that trying to do all of these things and maintain her current lifestyle is dangerous to her health. You mom needs to sell her house and use that money to either rent or buy a place that is big enough for only her. She should save the rest of the money to help with any medical or other big expenses and use the alimony to live on. You should also try to convince her to cut back on her hours at work, at least until she is feeling better, assuming that will happen in her condition.

Your sister is on her own. She's an adult and needs to act like one.

Bless you for trying to navigate your way through this situation with charity toward all involved.


#6

Family meeting time - that is all I can say. It will blow up for all involved because I can almost guarantee you that once those alimony payments are cut off and your Mom cannot help they won’t be around anymore.


#7

I’ve been so focused on the the moral issue here that I didn’t even consider the legal aspects of the situation until Charlotte posted that.

Now I am concerned about that. Seems to me like the two of them hiding this certainly is fraud. I wonder then, if I don’t tell my father about it, am I legally responsible as well? Especially since my sister has now called me and told me not to tell him??

This whole situation stinks!


#8

Indeed, try to contact your mother’s doctor, or lawyer. Her lawyer should know this is what she is doing especially if she is trying to get more alimony. He or she can tell her the financial and legal ramifications of this plan and hearing from a professional might help change her mind and make a decision that is in her best interest.


#9

The problem is they won’t hear it from me anymore. My sister thinks I am just trying to keep her from my mom’s money so I can have it. Sad isn’t it?

My mom won’t listen because she is a codependant personality and never recovered from the divorce. Plus her illnes is really serious and eventually fatal. She really is getting to the point of needing someone there fulltime.

So if my sister is willing to take care of her, then I think she should get help for it what she is doing. Though I also think, she should do it at no expense to my mom but that is not going to happen.

I am not as close with my mom as she is. And part of that is because I have been independant of my parents since I was 20 years old and with my mom’s codependancy issues, her and my sister are very very close.

I think the best thing I can do after reading these replies is have a conversation with my mom and just make sure she understands that if she hides this from my dad it could be considered fraud and she should discuss it with her attorney first and make sure of what she needs to do.

One think I’ve always done with my mom is speak my mind even if its something she doesn’t want to hear. And usually she will do what is right.

Thanks to everyone for their advice!


#10

Please forgive me for seeing things from a completely different perspective here but i speak as someone who has her mother living with her & has done for over 2years.
From what you describe it sounds like alongside your mother’s physical illness she may be suffering emotionally form the very recent divorce…3yrs is very new still.She will be so glad to have the company of her daughter and your mother clearly needs the help and attention of care.
I know what you have suggested from a practical point of view to you may seem sensible and financially good but your mother may wish to hold on to 'her home’the house you mention for many more reasons than financial sense.It has been her home for a while i guess.I don’t know the reason for the divorce (nor do i need to) I am just summising your dear mother may be hurting and feel she has lost such a lot already why should she lose/give up her home too,

Regarding whether you should inform your father,Why would you do such a thing?It is not necessary for you to go to him and tell him about your mother and her wishes.If he finds out through other means that is one thing but if not i dont think it is your place to do so.

Of course you love both your mother and your father and this is commendable and the right thing.Divorce causes a lot of hurt and pain in families.Your poor mother has only been divrced 3yrs.Divorce is like grief and has the same affect on a person.

Whether your sister may be able to benefit from things or not is between your mother and sister.If your mother or sister make mistakes be there for them.You may well be correct about your suggestions but from another point of view I feel you are not maybe being sympathetic to your mother.
You dont have to play games just dont get involved in telling anyone about the other.Keep your own counsel and love all of them.Let them make mistakes and be there with love and without judgement.

I wish you well and hope your mothers health improves.God bless you and all your family


#11

[quote="tbcrawford, post:10, topic:211418"]
Please forgive me for seeing things from a completely different perspective here but i speak as someone who has her mother living with her & has done for over 2years.
From what you describe it sounds like alongside your mother's physical illness she may be suffering emotionally form the very recent divorce...3yrs is very new still.She will be so glad to have the company of her daughter and your mother clearly needs the help and attention of care.
I know what you have suggested from a practical point of view to you may seem sensible and financially good but your mother may wish to hold on to 'her home'the house you mention for many more reasons than financial sense.It has been her home for a while i guess.I don't know the reason for the divorce (nor do i need to) I am just summising your dear mother may be hurting and feel she has lost such a lot already why should she lose/give up her home too,

Regarding whether you should inform your father,Why would you do such a thing?It is not necessary for you to go to him and tell him about your mother and her wishes.If he finds out through other means that is one thing but if not i dont think it is your place to do so.

Of course you love both your mother and your father and this is commendable and the right thing.Divorce causes a lot of hurt and pain in families.Your poor mother has only been divrced 3yrs.Divorce is like grief and has the same affect on a person.

Whether your sister may be able to benefit from things or not is between your mother and sister.If your mother or sister make mistakes be there for them.You may well be correct about your suggestions but from another point of view I feel you are not maybe being sympathetic to your mother.
You dont have to play games just dont get involved in telling anyone about the other.Keep your own counsel and love all of them.Let them make mistakes and be there with love and without judgement.

I wish you well and hope your mothers health improves.God bless you and all your family

[/quote]

I do understand fully she is wanting to hold on to the house for emotional reasons. But I can't see that as a reason to stand aside and watch her give up her health and her life over keeping a house. Her illness will never get better. She will die from it. And the more she works and put strain on herself, the sooner that will happen.

I know the divorce broke her down emotionally. I know she still suffers from it. But as her son, I cannot stand by and let her lose everything because of her grief. Trying to keep in a house that she cannot afford is doing nothing more than causing her more harm. And every year she spends in it, only makes it harder to get out.

I am always here to help them no matter what. Always. But part of that help is trying to teach them to be more responsible financially and not be en enabler of their poor financial decisions. She can blame her poor financialy judgement on grief, but what is my excuse if I do not provide her with councel at this time when she needs it most?

I'm also not talking about running to my dad and tattletaling on her. But if he ever askes about it, they want me to lie.


#12

You don't need to lie my friend, you just need to say "its not my businees dad" if he asks and vice versa.
I understand you think your mother is being unwise but it is her life and her wishes and her health.At the end of the day you have given your opinion (which is good of you to show you care)now it is up to your mother and her choices.
May God bless you and all your family


#13

Would it be at all possible for your mother to sell her house and move in with your sister using the money from the house sale to help them make payments on their house? Or maybe sell the house and get a smaller cheaper house that is still large enough for your sisters family? No need to have 4000 sq.ft of space and the money from such a house could help with a lot of these financial situations. I mean when you are on the last couple years of your life $100,000 can go a long way towards getting things in order. At this point the money only has to last a short while rather than the rest of her life.

Also has your mother looked into early social security benefits? Normally you the earliest you can get them is as age 62 and that is at a penalty, but with her illness she might be able to receive them now and since, from the information given, it doesn't seem like she will make it to her full retirement age, there wouldn't be any sense in trying to avoid the penalty since some money is obviously better than none.

There is also the consideration of what you think your dad would actually do if you told him the situation. Is he still bitter towards your mother and would he try to lower the alimony at any chance he got or if he knew the situation would he simply quietly pay them?


#14

I second this. All you can do is arm yourself with as much information that you can, by either speaking to your mom’s lawyer or speaking to one on your own, inform your mom and sister, but at the end of the day you can’t force them to make the decision you want. Who has power of attorney if your mom becomes unable to make the decisions herself? That might be something you want to look into. Has your mom considered her will, a living will, her estate at all, given her illness? Now is the time to think about all of that.

I think I would also not make any promises to the sister about saying anything to your dad. I wouldn’t seek him out to inform him. But I wouldn’t promise to do anything to cover up the situation either because it would weigh heavy on my conscious. That’s not even a promise she should be asking you to make. If she really wants to move in with your mom, its her decision and hers alone and she needs to accept the consequences and/or responsiblities of that decision. You don’t need to be her partner in crime.


#15

Parts of this don’t ring right.

I’m not a legal expert, but I have never heard of a near relative living in one’s house being a cause for cessation of alimony, unless they were financially contributing to the recipient’s support, and there was some legal obligation for them to do so. Living with a paramour who is contributing also might. But that’s not what you have here. This whole part of the story doesn’t sound right.

Something else. If, in your state, that could be the cause of a reduction in alimony, does anybody really think your father won’t find out about it? First thing people do here when there is an alimony dispute (maintenance, it’s called here) is file written questions, to be answered under oath, detailing every last aspect of a person’s financing, living arrangements, etc. Hard to think they don’t do that in your state and locality. If your father’s attorney is worth anything, he’ll find out anyway.

In my opinion, if your father asks if someone is living with your mother, I think the proper answer is “Please don’t ask me things about Mom’s life. You have a lawyer for that.”

Offhand, I would guess that, eventually, your sister will end up with a deed to your mom’s house. Part of my occupation involves closing land transactions, and I see that all the time. If you don’t care about that, (and there probably isn’t much you can do to prevent it) let it all go.

Finally, if your mother is obsessed with that house to the ruination of her health, it’s undoubtedly proper to tell her so, then let it go.


#16

[quote="Ridgerunner, post:15, topic:211418"]
Parts of this don't ring right.

I'm not a legal expert, but I have never heard of a near relative living in one's house being a cause for cessation of alimony, unless they were financially contributing to the recipient's support, and there was some legal obligation for them to do so. Living with a paramour who is contributing also might. But that's not what you have here. This whole part of the story doesn't sound right.

Something else. If, in your state, that could be the cause of a reduction in alimony, does anybody really think your father won't find out about it? First thing people do here when there is an alimony dispute (maintenance, it's called here) is file written questions, to be answered under oath, detailing every last aspect of a person's financing, living arrangements, etc. Hard to think they don't do that in your state and locality. If your father's attorney is worth anything, he'll find out anyway.

In my opinion, if your father asks if someone is living with your mother, I think the proper answer is "Please don't ask me things about Mom's life. You have a lawyer for that."

Offhand, I would guess that, eventually, your sister will end up with a deed to your mom's house. Part of my occupation involves closing land transactions, and I see that all the time. If you don't care about that, (and there probably isn't much you can do to prevent it) let it all go.

Finally, if your mother is obsessed with that house to the ruination of her health, it's undoubtedly proper to tell her so, then let it go.

[/quote]

Thanks. This is sound advice.

I'm not sure if it would affect the alimony either. And you are right that my sister would get the house. And I don't care about that. So that's ok.

I have told her, many times, and you are right, I will let it go now. It's just hard to stand back and watch.

I am named the executer of her will, so I am sure at some point this whole situation is going to become very messy for me. But, as of now, I am glad I posted this and had a chance to talk it out with so many great people. Thanks everyone. This has helped tremendously. A lot cheaper than a therapist! :)


#17

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit www.catholic.com.