Till debt do us part

By on May 31, 2012

Seven years ago this month, I was the June bride with a big smile walking down the aisle to marry the person who was to become my ex husband.  Like any other couple, our wish was simple – to have a stable life.  Two small children later and millions of yen in debts to pay,  life had been anything but stable.  Here’s how I went from being ‘debtful’  to ‘half debt free’.   It all started with…

A debt that was not mine
One day, I received a confusing call from a consumer finance company collecting an ‘overdue’ payment for credit card purchases.  The credit card was mine, only the purchase was not.  It turns out my husband had repeatedly taken my credit card out from my wallet without permission when his own limit ran out.

The purchases had accumulated to a sum he no longer could afford to pay.   I was also shocked in disbelief  to discover that he had brought consumer debts into the marriage that made our financial issues far worse.  When I asked him how he planned to settle all these,  he calmly told me to leave the matter to him and assured me that he was going to deal with it directly.

Consumer Debt Anxiety
By some stroke of bad luck, my husband’s company had a reorganization and he lost his job.  The overwhelming task of having to deal with debt collectors that are highly skilled to give anyone a heart attack fell on me.  It was an everyday affair.  The stress level has now reached fever pitch.

Aha Moment
It finally dawned on me that the problem will not go away unless I rolled up my sleeves and made things happen.   With no money and work,  hiring a lawyer was not an option.

Armed with only the best intention of staying sane,  I then went to a library, made a research and discovered that  declaring personal insolvency could be a solution.  The drastic kind.  It also creates further issues such as the likelihood of being disqualified from renting an apartment in the future.  I read in the book that provided I met some conditions, it was possible to seek a debt reduction through mediation.  This is a method used in Japan after all efforts to collect money have failed.   In the arbitrary proceedings, my husband and I appealed to a debt restructuring committee based on our actual personal circumstances.  To qualify for arbitration, my husband’s status shifted from breadwinner to dependent. The principal amount was reduced dramatically in half and interests recalculated according to the Interest Rate Restriction Act.  There had been scornful remarks thrown at us during the mediation but in the end,  the great lengths I went to was worth it.

Although other issues that followed eventually ended up in divorce,  the one lesson I learned from the experience is not to be afraid to talk about money and spending habits with your partner before getting married.  Money can’t buy you love but lack of it could not make you feel all right.

About Vivienne Lee