I Need My Husband’s Permission to Pay Bills

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

6 thoughts on “I Need My Husband’s Permission to Pay Bills

  1. And what if anything ever happened to Tim, God forbid?

    Honestly, while I know this is a less likely scenario for you, it definitely happened to my mom a few years ago when my dad died. Despite the fact that they had some joint accounts, that both names had been on the mortgage, that some of their assets were held in a joint trust, despite the fact that she (via her personal bank accounts) had paid some of those bills previously — a number of utilities then needed proof of death (an original, not a copy, of the death certificate) to add her name to the account. In the county where she lives, official copies were something like $10 each. Due to that, getting utilities and services changed over cost something like an extra $60.

    • Ashley on

      Tori – Thanks for sharing. This definitely happened to my mom, too, when my dad and her got divorced. She told me today she still pays some bills in his name because it wasn’t worth the crap they gave her to change it. So ridiculous! But that’s also why I’m so adamant about getting my name on there now. I don’t want to deal with this in such a trying time, should something ever happen.

      Seems to me that if your name is on the mortgage, you should be able to do whatever you want to the bills.

  2. (Here from Feministe!) Yes, if you were the account holder, you would have to give the company permission to add your husband to the account. I know this because I’ve done it. 😀 The companies in question don’t have access to your mortgage documents, and “I pay the bills too” is not the same as “my name is on this account as a registered account holder, and I am therefore authorized to make changes to it.” This has little to nothing to do with you being the wife and him being the husband; it has to do with account security. The same thing happened to me when dealing with my grandparents’ bills. It can be a monumental pain in the ass (especially with company-funded health insurance; I seriously thought I was going to tear my hair out), but do you really want people to be able to make changes to accounts for you are responsible for without your permission?

    • Ashley on

      stonebiscuit –

      It makes perfect sense that the companies need permission to add me. It just sounded really weird when he told me about the policy, and it was even weirder that he couldn’t just put my name on the accounts. We have to actually sit together and call, and he needs to tell them that he’s putting me on the phone, and then hand me the phone. It just seems like a lot of work when he could just call and tell them my name and have that be the end of it!

  3. vision on

    My boyfriend and I were happy as far as I could tell and I never thought that we would break up. When his cousin died in a tragic car accident he went back to Philippine for a week to be with his family. I could not go because I was in the middle of entertaining out of town clients for work. He did not seem to be upset that I could not go so I let him be. The next thing that I know, he reconnected with an old friend from high school that he had a crush on years ago and they started to have an affair! I had no clue what was going on until a month after he came back from Philippine.He proceeded to see both her and I until I caught him testing her one night. I confronted him and he told me the truth about what happened. We broke up and went our separate ways. Neither of us fought for our relationship. I was angry and decided not to be upset about it and just keep it moving. Then after about a month of not speaking to him I became sad. I wanted him to tell me that he wanted to be with me and not her. I contacted Dr.cool from ANCIENT BENIN SHRINE for a love spell and he totally helped me! he was able to get him to miss me to where he wanted to get back together again. He had a lot of regrets and felt bad for not fighting to keep me and for cheating in general. He values our relationship so much more now and we are together now! You can also get your lover back with the help of Dr. cool contact him through lovespelltemple@yahoo.com

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