WWYD: The Deadbeat Boyfriend

Back in February, I regrettably loaned my boyfriend (at the time) $700 to help cover his rent. Which, by the way, is INSANELY cheap for a Brooklyn apartment, but whatever. The money was needed because he had been fired from his job at a bar in January, and so had no income or savings to pay February’s rent.

I am extremely wary about spending large amounts of money, but I’ve been in scenarios before where I just didn’t have the money and had to borrow from a friend (twice—both times it was when I was first moving into an apartment and they asked for a TON of money up front). But! Both times I repaid the money in full, and almost immediately—because I’m not an asshole.

Thankfully I made him sign a generic loan document (that’s a pretty big sign that you shouldn’t loan your boyfriend money—you don’t trust him to repay you to the degree that you make him sign something) when I handed over the money. It’s now July, and I’ve seen $0. I’ve, obviously, broken up with him already, and he is mad/sad as a result, but now I have to take him to court over the money.

My question, finally, is this: He is, to my knowledge, still unemployed or getting paid in cash under the table. When the court rules in my favor, what will happen after that? What happens as a result of a small claims court ruling? — L.

I’m not a lawyer and won’t pretend to be one. Here is a helpful pamphlet on how small claims courts work in New York. See page 12:

The winning party, or judgment creditor, will receive a “notice of judgment.” The notice of judgment will include the judge’s decision as well as information regarding enforcement officers and ways to collect your judgment. You must read all the information printed on the notice of judgment before you begin your collection efforts. Winning a judgment does not guarantee payment; however, it does give you the right to collect it. A money judgment is legally enforceable for 20 years.

First, contact the judgment debtor and request payment of the judgment amount. If the judgment debtor refuses to pay the judgment amount, you may need the services of an enforcement officer.

But that’s all stuff that you can just look at on your own.

From what I can tell from this situation, your ex-boyfriend has been unemployed for half a year now, and if he’s not earning money and if his unemployment check is going to pay the bills he has now, I imagine that he has found it difficult to pay you back in a timely manner. Or he might be a jerk—I don’t know him. But have you two tried working out an alternative plan that won’t involve you having to pay court fees? For example, have you tried working out an installment plan? That might be a better option than having to deal with the court process and, if your ex-boyfriend still can’t pay you back because he is unemployed, having to pay an enforcement officer to seize whatever assets your ex-boyfriend has as payment (if he has any).

If I were in this position, I’d seek out alternative routes of getting that $700 back before taking any legal action, but to be perfectly honest, I probably wouldn’t go to court. I have a lending rule: I only lend out money I know I can afford to lose. If I couldn’t have afforded to lose $700, I would have said, “Boyfriend, I can’t afford to lend you $700, but I can lend you $200. You’ll have to figure out the rest somewhere else.” I’ve been burned before, and this lending rule has prevented me from being burned again. If you haven’t already, I would suggest making a rule for yourself as well.


Email me your WWYD experiences to me with “WWYD” in the subject line. See previous installments.



20 Comments / Post A Comment

Yeah if he’s not paying you I don’t think a judgment is going to help much, unless he somehow strikes it rich.

honey cowl (#1,510)

I agree ……. yet saying “you shouldn’t have lent him money in the first place” is not advice in my world.

AitchBee (#3,001)

@honey cowl One might even argue that it is…the opposite of advice.

Mike Dang (#2)

@honey cowl Yes. “You shouldn’t have lent him money in the first place” is not advice in my world either. Since this is a WWYD, that part of it was explaining why I have a lending rule, and why that lending rule wouldn’t have allowed me to lend out that amount of money in the first place.

tussock (#1,296)

@Mike Dang I have that same rule and it’s saved me a lot of trouble. One nice thing is that if I get the money back it feels like a bonus! But it also meant that when I loaned some money to someone who is in a genuinely difficult place, it was easy to say later on: look, just don’t worry about this until you can afford to. If that’s ten years, or twenty years, it’s ok. This money is not standing between us.

cryptolect (#1,135)

@tussock I don’t even ever lend money to my friends. I just give them whatever I want/can afford to give them.

EM (#1,012)

I once lent a boyfriend $500 and then broke up with him a few months later. When he dragged his feet for months about paying me back I threatened to tell his mom that he still owed me money, and he paid me back really quickly after that. Although his method of giving me the money was to throw a wad of bills wrapped in a rubber band at me in public, but whatever, it worked!

Also do you have to pay fees for small claims court in NY? In my province there aren’t any.

boogers mcgee (#4,474)

@EM hey! i’m the letter writer. yeah there’s a small fee for filing the claim. i’ve made many threats but he is… not nice, as i’m sure you can tell from the circumstances resulting in the letter. oh well! i guess i have to write it off as a lesson learned (and well paid for)

boogers mcgee (#4,474)

@boogers mcgee also i just re-read that, and my wording makes it seem like i’ve been harassing him. by “threats” i mean i told him i was going to take him to small claims court, and then followed through on it

Worker Parasite (#2,292)

Been in a similar situation, made a few attempts to get the money back but it all went up her nose. I figured it was worth $700 to never have to deal with that person again. I’m still a little choked about the money 5 years later, but it sure has been a nice 5 years of never dealing with that trainwreck.

UrbanGarlic (#4,303)

@Worker Parasite This reminds me of a saying my grade 8 health/visual arts (really?) teacher told us that resonates far more now than it did then. If you lend money to someone and that person leaves your life, it was worth that money to get rid of him/her.

megsy (#1,565)

@Worker Parasite yeah, my ex is a bit of a jerk about it and refuses to see how he owed me any money. We had a lot of fights about it and he would get upset with me because I would get upset about finances and he thought I was being ridiculous. Every now and then he texts me and I feel really guilty about it, but I don’t answer him back. I haven’t removed him from Facebook, so if he REALLY wants to see how I’m doing he can, but I’m not engaging with him.

But seriously, he was like 10 years older than me and had no handle on his money at all. He was irresponsible & drank way too much. So I am just chalking it up to an expensive lesson.

boogers mcgee (#4,474)

@Worker Parasite this is what i am thinking! we did not break up on good terms (i’m the letter writer)(there is much much more crap that was not detailed in my lengthy email), so i guess the best route would be to write it off. sigh. expensive lesson!

boogers mcgee (#4,474)

@UrbanGarlic this is what i’ve been telling myself. i am starting to apply to grad school, and was counting on that money to go towards application fees or something. the money isn’t making or breaking my life, but it matters to me!

Having gone through a similar situation but NOT making my ex sign a repayment document of any kind, I ended up losing around $3000 to him. If I had ANY legal recourse at all, I would have gone to court, if only for the satisfaction of being able to win and make his life a living hell for an extended period of time.

I realize this is a place for sane financial advice/discussion, but if you can get a nice cut rate legal fee, it might be totally worth it to put a stain on this assholes financial and legal record and force him to go to court a few times and explain his trifling ways for public record. You’ll probably never get the money back, but thats priceless.

swirrlygrrl (#2,398)

@geotherapycarefest That’s a lot of time and emotional energy to expend for $700. Even reading your comment makes me feel tired at the thought of carrying around all that anger. I say this as someone who lost $8000 to an ex, at a time when that was a huge amount of money to me (still not insignificant, but not all the savings I have, as it once was), and after talking to a lawyer about the process for taking him to small claims court and to a therapist about a lot of things, just decided to let it go. Let go of hope of over getting the money, and as much as possible, let go of my anger at him. I’d rather pay the financial cost than the emotional one.

sunflowernut (#1,638)

My understanding of small claims court is that it’s not that big of a deal usually? Like, if you have the time, go for it. $700 is a decent amount of money, and it sounds like you have the documentation for it, so it’s worth a shot. It is problematic that he’s still unemployed – but if you were to win the case, you could still work out an installment plan once he finds employment. And maybe he can even borrow some money to start paying you back. Another possibility is that you could just settle for a lower amount, for example $300, and just call it even.

rabbitrabbit (#3,404)

Honestly, I know these are difficult times, but it’s only $700. Let it go. If you could afford to loan it, you’re obviously not living hand to mouth. Wasting time and energy trying to get this money back won’t make you feel better about it, and frankly, seems a little vengeful! You already broke up with him. Maybe he’s a jerk, creep, whatever — but let it go. In five years, that $700 will not seem meaningful. It’s probably not the money, per se, that’s meaningful now, either.

boogers mcgee (#4,474)

@rabbitrabbit does it really seem vengeful? clearly i’m on the inside of this situation so it seems logical to me, but it is a good deal of money. i find it hard to believe that most people wouldn’t try to pursue whatever avenues they have at their disposal to try to get the money back.

SterlingCooper05 (#2,529)

I always try to estimate how much time and effort it would take me to earn “x” amount of money. If it would only take 6-7 hours of time to recoup the $700, then that’s $100 an hour and worth my time. If it is going to take 2 weeks of time and effort, it is probably not worth it and I can focus my efforts on something more productive.

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