I Need My Husband's Permission to Pay Bills

5 years ago

I can't even make this stuff up. OK, here's the story, and it all starts with the fact that I finally have a grown-up driver's license.

For those of you who don't know, a grown-up driver's license is two-fold. First, it's one of the new-fangled non-forge-able ones that Illinois started issuing well after I turned 21 and renewed my license for the last time. Well, that's not true, entirely. I had to renew it again two years ago, but since I'm a safe driver, they just sent me a sticker and I kept my old, copy-able license. Second, even though I haven't lived at my mom's house for two years, or for the two years right after college, I still had a driver's license with her address on it, as I lived in apartments and it was, in fact, my permanent address. Now, though, since I'm in debt on this new house for the foreseeable future, it is as permanent an address as any, so Tim and I decided to change our licenses to reflect our new, grown-up state.

Most of my friends got their grown-up licenses a long time ago, because most of them changed their names when they got married. Since I didn't change my name, and since I knew we were moving to a house in the very near future, I never saw a need to change my license. Now, though, I can finally fit in. And, I finally don't have to explain to every cashier ever that my license is, in fact, up to date, because there is a sticker on the back saying so. Exciting stuff.

More infuriating than exciting, though, was the actual going to the DMV itself to make the change. We woke up early to get there before the lines got too bad. I called in to the DMV to ask them what we needed for an address change. They said two pieces of mail. What they should have said was two pieces of official mail - utility bills, insurance policy, bank statement, etc. So that was partially their fault, but also partially mine because, duh, I should have known that personal mail wouldn't work. But, I figured Tim had utility bills with him, so, worst case scenario, I could use those.

We got to the DMV and they asked for our documents. They wouldn't accept mine because they were personal mail, obviously, so Tim pulled out the utility bills. None of which were addressed to me. Um, ok, what? I own this house, and I help pay the utilities, so why aren't they addressed to both of us? Of course, the lady at the DMV doesn't care about this problem, so we leave and go to the car where I ask Tim what the deal was.

"I told you a month ago," he said, "the utility companies have to hear from you before your name can be on them."

"I thought my name was on at least some of them!" I said. Nope. Every single utility company needed to hear from me before I could be added. "OK," I said, "I'll have to call them today."

"No, you can't," Tim responded. "I have to call and give them permission to add you, and then hand you the phone."

WHAT?! These companies need PERMISSION FROM MY HUSBAND to add me even though I PAY BILLS, TOO?!

Essentially, yes.

To be fair, if I had called and set up the utilities in our new house in my name, they probably would have asked for my permission to add Tim. (But, would they? Or would they just assume, as a man, he was the head of the household and add him, no questions asked? I don't know.) Thank goodness, though, that I'm not in an abusive relationship because if I needed his permission to change something about my phone or any other utility and he wouldn't grant it, that could lead to a host of other problems that would, essentially, keep me in an abusive relationship. It reminds me of that rule saying that people without income cannot get credit cards, which, of course, disproportionately affects stay-at-home moms and, sadly, can also perpetuate abuse.

We ended up driving back home and digging out some documents that had my name on them along with our new address and getting everything worked out, but the fact that I need my husband's permission to pay bills is really grating on my nerves. Through this, I've also come to discover that our bank didn't change my address on my personal bank statement, just on our joint accounts and Tim's personal accounts. I also have not been able to get checks from our joint account with both of our names on them, either, but all of this probably has more to do with our bank's incompetence than anything else.

Still, is it too much to ask that I am able to take some onus over bills I'm equally financially responsible for? Apparently, yes.

And what if anything ever happened to Tim, God forbid? How would I have access to accounts my name wasn't on? I joked yesterday that I'd just stop paying them, since I wasn't responsible for them, but what an outdated policy. If I can prove that my name is on the account we use to pay the bill, and that my name is on the mortgage and deed to the house, it should just automatically be added to the utility bill, end of story. But, alas, I need my husband's permission to pay bills.

What year is it, again?

Photo Credit: My Sweetheart the Drunk

Originally posted at Small Strokes.

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