my husband is my boss — and we’re getting divorced

A reader writes:

I am asking for advice about how to handle my impending divorce at work. I work at a large nonprofit in a specialist capacity that is a recognized priority for the company, but organizationally belongs to one of five departments. I’ve worked here for 10 years. I was headhunted by the executive director, and have worked myself up to the specialist position I have now.

My husband of 28 years has been employed at the nonprofit for 20 years, and during the last five he has been the head of the department I am in — my boss.

The organization has many married couples on all levels. (The former executive director was married to the head of the largest and most important department.) My husband has previously given me worse conditions than others to avoid being accused of favoring me, to the point that the director had to step in.

It has not been easy, but I have done my utmost to behave professionally and keep my private life as separate from my work as humanly possible.

Now my husband/head of department has asked for a divorce suddenly and unexpectedly, as he is having an affair with a colleague. The divorce is a great shock, made worse by the fact that our daughter is critically ill and faces a long, hard recovery.

My soon-to-be ex-husband has the power to cut my funding, lay me off, give negative feedback to the director about me, badmouth me, and make my life even harder than it is.

I normally have a good rapport with the director, but should I tell him about the divorce and illness or not? I wish to remain professional and private, but without telling him about the divorce I have no way of protecting myself from the persecution that I fear from my ex-husband. On the other hand, the director might lay me off himself to avoid problems with my ex-husband. My priority is to keep my job, since finding a new one is next to impossible and I need the insurance for my daughter.

Oh no. I’m so sorry you’re going through this.

And whoa, this organization is a mess. Married people should never be allowed to manage each other, and it’s apparently common there. As you’ve seen, it’s a recipe for all kinds of problems — favoritism, the perception of favoritism, lack of objectivity, and plenty more. It generally means that the employee’s performance isn’t assessed appropriately and they’re not given adequate feedback, and it can even open up your company to charges of harassment down the road (“I wanted to end things with him, but he implied it would affect my standing at work”). Most employers rightly don’t permit this.

But that doesn’t help you now, of course. He does manage you, and your organization has apparently been fine with that (even after having to intervene over his treatment of you!).

You do need to tell the executive director about the divorce. It’s very unlikely not to affect things at work, and he’ll need to be aware of that context. You also need to tell him because you need to ask to report to a different manager. I don’t know how feasible that will be logistically, but it’s utterly untenable to work for someone who’s in the process of divorcing you (and having an affair with a colleague, no less).

I get that you’re concerned about being pushed out, but even if you don’t disclose the situation, your husband probably will! It’s unlikely that he plans to pretend you’re still together, especially once the divorce is final, and especially if he wants to go public with the new relationship at some point.

Please consider consulting a lawyer for help here, aside from the legal help with the divorce itself. Firing you at the end of your relationship with your boss would put the company on shaky legal ground, and ideally you or your lawyer should stand ready to explain to the company the legal considerations in play. (Also, please talk to your divorce lawyer about getting an agreement to keep your daughter on your husband’s insurance, which should help you feel less tied to this job.)

Last, I strongly urge you to reconsider your commitment to staying in this job, especially if they won’t move you (but even if they will). You might not be able to leave immediately, but please actively work toward it. This is not a workable situation for any of you.

Read updates to this letter here and here.

{ 230 comments… read them below }

    1. Exhausted Trope*

      Same. I am screaming internally.
      OP, very sorry this is your nightmare. I can only send you positive vibes….

      1. charo*

        Why isn’t the daughter covered under HIS insurance, if she’s his daughter?
        A lawyer is a very good idea in this case. I got a year’s salary assettlement from an awful nonprofit and was thrilled to leave, after a very minor Worker’s Comp. case, when I got a lawyer. The boss had wanted me gone, as he wanted the previous asst. mgr. gone [she threatened to sue them, I lucked out].
        I assume they had insurance to pay out this much money. Everyone pretended it was a big injury when it was a minor fall. Workers Comp. takes on a life of its own, it seems, esp. when you hire a lawyer.
        Nonprofits can be as dysfunctional as for-profits, or more.

    2. Littorally*

      Seriously. I read the title and went “oh no” and then as I kept reading the oh no in my head just got louder and louder.

      1. A*

        This is one of my top favorite things about AAM – it’s the opposite of clickbait. If the title is juicy… the contents are always juicier.

        1. Cliqua*

          Certainly interesting to read but describing someone’s awful circumstances as ‘juicy’ like it’s your entertainment is not cool.

          1. Letterwriter*

            Letterwriter here: Thank you for the support. I can assure you that all my collegues/all the employees are going to think the divorce is extremely juicy and entertaining when the news break. I will be hit by schadenfreude all around and your comment is going to remind me about the existance of decent people.

      2. tink*

        My kneejerk reaction to the title was “oh they own a restaurant/small shop together” and then I started reading it and oh no Oh No OH NOOOOOOOOOO.

      3. Quill*

        I nopetopused so far back I ended up in December! (via the random article button.)

        While I’m there, anyone need me to get anything from the pre-covid world?

    3. Kate R*

      I was trying to keep it together until the director had to step in over the way her husband was treating her and the intervention was not, “a person should not report to their spouse”. Just, what the hell?

      1. Observer*

        Well, why would that surprise you. The ED was married to his direct report!</B. Of COURSE he wouldn’t see it as a problem for OP to be managed by her boss!

      2. CanWeHaveSinglePayerNowPlease?*

        This definitely happens! I work for a pretty big non-profit and our Director of Medicine has two of his doctor sons as direct reports. Our ED’s daughter has worked as an executive assistant for our VPs.

        And yet the company has a policy where any family connection between employees has to be approved at the VP level. Of course, if you happen to know the CEO, ED, or DoM then your application is always approved. :D

        1. charo*

          Nonprofits can be very unethical or shady at least.
          The entire counseling dept. quit at an agency I was at, started their own place, and failed within a few months, probably from internal bickering; they deserved each other. Some may have been OK as therapists w/clients but they were all primadonas as coworkers.

    4. A*

      Yup. I have soooo many thoughts/feelings about this… and yet.. am speechless.

      Aside from saying that I am so, so sorry for OP. And I’d like to punch soon-to-be-ex in some not so nice spots. Ugh.

    5. A Nony Moose*

      Similar situation happening with a couple at my workplace except the managed employee is the jerk and also a low performer. It’s a fun rock and a hard place for the rest of us. Spouses should never be allowed to manage each other.

      That aside, I’m sorry you’re dealing with this, OP. I wish you and your daughter the best.

    6. Free Meerkats*

      I showed this to my retired HR person wife. She read the first two paragraphs and was shaking her head. I said, “keep scrolling.” and her eyes kept getting bigger. When she finished she just got up, muttered, “WTF, glad I’m out.” and wandered away.

      1. A volunteer*

        Retired HR here too. Glad I don’t have to sort this out. Second the advice about getting the daughter on the the husband’s insurance with all EOB’s going to the wife and be sure that the wife’s lawyer writes some stiff consequences into the documentation if he drops her coverage. In my benefits years I handled several cases where the wife and/or kids were left without coverage when hubby dropped them during open enrollment (without the possibility of COBRA) or changed jobs.

    7. The Jones*

      I got a little advice to add to Allison’s. For health insurance, definitely follow her advice and try to keep your daughter on his insurance. Should that not be feasible, try to buy yours and your daughter’s health insurance the same month it would expire, as that would likely get you a starting date of the next month. (if you go through the exchange). If you wait, yours and her health insurance could be delayed. If that’s not possible, then buy it by the 15th of one month to set it up for the 1st of the next month.

      That said, this guy is a [word I know my post would get deleted for]

      1. Kathlynn (canada)*

        If it’s possible and they do fire you, either negotiate extending your insurance or see if she can get put on your husband’s insurance. (I’m worried about preexisting conditions, I can’t remember if that part of the ACA got repealed)

        1. Quill*

          I think that may be state dependent but also! OP needs to bring up the insurance situation with a divorce lawyer because that, iirc, factors into child support.

  1. Lean Clare*

    I’m so sorry, OP. It sounds like you don’t have much confidence that you will be treated fairly by your ex (he gave you harder projects to avoid the appearance of favouritism????).

    Protect yourself by talking to your other boss, and start looking for other work now. I wish you the best.

    1. AVP*

      Frankly I’m wondering if he was treating her badly and giving her bad assignments just to eff with her and their relationship and only blamed it on “avoiding favoritism.” He sounds like just the kind of nice guy who would do that…

      1. Lancelottie*

        Curious whether he makes things similarly difficult for the colleague he’s having an affair with.

          1. A Silver Spork*

            I know that “when a man marries his mistress, he creates a job opening” is a common saying, but I’d hazard a second, complementary one: “when a man divorces his abuse victim, he creates the worst job opening in the world”.

      2. Cedrus Libani*

        What got me was the matter-of-fact assumption that, if she gets fired because her husband is divorcing her, that would leave THEIR (!!!) daughter without insurance. Even assuming the kid is 26, they’ve been married longer than that. That’s his kid too.

        If you find yourself married to the kind of unimaginable asshole who would leave their own critically ill child uninsured without a second thought, despite being easily able to afford a family plan (I assume the head of a department wouldn’t be looking under the couch cushions for the cash)…that is not a situation you write in for career advice about. That is an emergency. People routinely get themselves killed because they are unable or unwilling to treat these situations as seriously as they ought to.

        When you marry someone, it ain’t about the white dress and the vastly overpriced party. That person is your power of attorney. If you get hit by a bus, catch a bad case of COVID-19, or otherwise end up unable to advocate for yourself, this person decides whether to pull your plug. They also get your stuff when you die. Even on an ordinary day…they can easily get you alone, and then there’s nobody else to say it wasn’t an accident. You have to trust the ever-loving hell out of your spouse. This guy?! No.

        1. Jdc*

          If she became unemployed the courts would quickly make him insure the child. Also, children are always covered by Medicaid if uninsured and it’s quite easy.

          1. Something Clever TBD*

            Not if the child is a legal adult for child support – in most states, 18/19. Insurance allows you to keep child on your insurance until 26 I think, but in my state at least, there’s nothing the court can do after child support jurisdiction ends at 18/19/high school graduation.

        2. Gamer Girl*

          Thanks for this clear perspective on why marriage is legally important and why you need to really think about the whole “in sickness and health…til death do us part” portions of the vows. They’re not just ritual words!

          OP, wishing the best for your and your daughter’s future health and happiness, and good lawyers to disentangle you from this whole mess of a husband/manager!

        3. Exaggerate much?*

          “Even on an ordinary day…they can easily get you alone, and then there’s nobody else to say it wasn’t an accident.”

          I am not saying I agree with the guy having an affair, of course, but it’s quite the leap to say he’s also a murderer.

          1. Cat Meowmy Admin*

            Maybe you could have missed the context of Cedrus’ comment here (fwiw, I completely agree with what he said). It’s about the myriad of important reasons why you need to have *utmost trust in your spouse, generally speaking* – as a practical reality. For this purpose, not that this particular cretin of a husband would “do her in” though.

          2. Cedrus Libani*

            I don’t think so either, though if the situation is as presented – he’s perfectly happy to let his young adult child go uninsured because he’s discarded his current family and moved on, which in context is fairly close to a death sentence – it’s more than enough to make my hair stand up.

            Mostly, though, I was making a point about how much power a spouse has to ruin your life. Even if they don’t literally kill you. I’ll admit that I have a dirty lens on this one – I spent a chunk of my early years living with a dangerous adult, and came out with no chill whatsoever about people who view other people as playthings – but I honestly don’t think I’m that much more paranoid than I should be. Other people are not nearly paranoid enough! Your spouse’s name will be on your mortgage and on your children’s birth certificates. This isn’t a game. They can break you. If you’re starting to think that maybe you should take evasive action…it’s probably well past time that you did so.

            (For the record, I would be married if a certain pandemic hadn’t eaten my wedding. I’ve known that person for almost a decade, and I trust them like I trust myself. Even so, zero percent chance that I would agree to a situation where they effectively sign my paychecks!)

            1. Quill*

              It’s only paranoia after nobody’s out to get you anymore!

              – Signed, grew up with a dangerous person.

        4. A Silver Spork*

          Both my parents were like that: they got insurance for themselves and never put me on it (even post ACA). When I started college (my uni mandated that all students be insured) they… put me on the crappy college insurance. That I paid for with my own scholarship money.

          I can confirm that this was barely even the tip of the iceberg of dysfunction. OP, priority 1 is a divorce lawyer. Therapists, for both you and your daughter, as well. Please take care of yourself and her!

          1. Them Boots*

            Oh Silver! My heart is hurting for Kid/Teen/Young Adult Spork. Your parents were incredibly selfish & heartless. I hope you have a huge Team You now!

            1. A Silver Spork*

              Thanks for the concern, I’m doing pretty alright now! Haven’t spoken to my parents in years and got treatment for the… issues… they left me with.

      3. tangerineRose*

        “I’m wondering if he was treating her badly and giving her bad assignments just to eff with her and their relationship” I thought that too.

  2. noahwynn*

    I know this isn’t helpful to OP, but this, this right here, is why you don’t have spouses in each other’s chain of command or supervise each other at work in any way. There is no way a divorce will not also impact your manager-employee relationship.

    1. DW*

      Obviously things fall through the cracks but I’m surprised the nonprofit’s legal advisor isn’t on top of this. Having relationships in the direct chain of command is the most obvious, how-to-avoid-lawsuits-101 thing out there. No lawyer worth paying will tell you that arrangement is okay. And if it’s happening so often, how has no one else not taken legal action before!

      1. A*

        I wonder if the shared resource aspect of OP’s job is viewed as justification for it somehow being ok? I think I might be being overly generous here.

      2. I can only speak Japanese*

        Right?? Even on Grey’s Anatomy, they had that policy for a while. Everyone got mad about it though (interns not understanding they were being protected…) – and now I want Alison to do a special on Grey’s. So many workplace issues…

        1. une autre Cassandra*

          The Sawbones podcast has had a couple episodes about medical TV shows that might lend some insight into the realism of the workplace dynamics.

          1. I can only speak Japanese*

            I don’t doubt that there’s a lot of questionable stuff going on.

      3. Academic Addie*

        I used to do some volunteer work for a non-profit. I was assaulted by the executive director’s husband, also a volunteer with the organization, at an event not for the organization. I filed a grievance to be allowed to avoid working with the husband, and they told me that there was nothing they could do. The executive director and two of her direct reports (some of the only salaried people in the organization) oversaw the grievance process. I’ve always wondered if I should have reported that elsewhere because it really seemed like a disaster waiting to happen.

        1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

          I’m sorry that happened to you. There should have been a whistle-blowing avenue open to you.

          It does seem to be a particular problem with non-profits and charities, where the “mission” tends to attract closely like-minded people, and where they rely on volunteers. In my experience, people tend to volunteer together, so organisations can end up with leadership stacked with married couple pairs, or sibling groups, or parents and (adult) children. And then the unrelated sets tend to socialise closely with other sets, so untangling those interpersonal relationships in the event of misconduct or other falling-out can be a nightmare.

        2. Cedrus Libani*

          I have never seen an organization where spouses were allowed to work together that was not, in at least some aspects, a wretched hive of scum and villainy. I’m not quite sure where the causality lies. Functional organizations don’t do that; dysfunctional ones do, and then get worse.

          I once saw a department, run by a husband-wife team, beat a racial discrimination lawsuit on grounds that they’d been sued before, several times, for similar (egregious) behavior – usually by white people.

          1. Venus*

            I think you need more qualifiers. There are plenty of spouses who work together, sometimes because they met at work. The problem is typically when they have the power to influence the other’s work, or the power to help out their spouse by influencing others.

            1. Anonymous at a University*

              Yes. Academia is rife with spousal hires, but I have seen situations where it does work- until one spouse becomes chair of the department where the other one also works or something. Then all bets are off.

  3. Black Horse Dancing*

    I can’t believe this. Never should one spouse supervise the other. This is terrible. OP, do as Alison insutructs and check with a lawyer and immediately ask for a new boss because this is only going to get nastier.

  4. Solid State*

    This is a truly awful situation. I’m so glad Alison published it- Her perspective is amazing, and also I know the commentariat here will have support, scripts, advice, and tips for you as well.

    But for the insurance for your daughter- please make sure to get it in your divorce decree that your husband has to keep the kids on his insurance and pay whatever % of her medical expenses! Insurance shouldn’t only fall to you, and if his job feels more secure than yours in this situation (unfair and awful as that is) then make sure you and your child are protected that way.

    1. Dust Bunny*

      OMG this so much–don’t let him yank your daughter’s insurance to get back at you.

    2. KayEss*

      Knowing people seriously struggling for years with no end in sight because of their POS narcissist fathers loopholing the divorce agreements… leave NOTHING to chance there. Spell out his required financial contributions to his child’s healthcare, education, EVERYTHING. Even if it feels like it should go without saying.

      1. Seven hobbits are highly effective, people*

        This is getting far afield, but while it’s important to spell everything out in a divorce degree, a divorce decree is a legal document, not a magic wand, and can’t make someone actually do things. It just creates more consequences if they don’t.

        I used to work in foreclosure many, many years ago, and the number of times an ex-spouse decided not to keep paying the mortgage as stated in the divorce decree was non-zero. We could wreck their credit over it, and the other ex-spouse could sue them over it, but ultimately that didn’t mean the mortgage payment got made if the ex-spouse was willing to ride their credit score down in flames to hurt the other party. (I also saw this kind of thing when working in payroll and dealing with garnishments.)

        So, get the best, most clearly-written divorce decree you can, but don’t trust it. Always leave room for people to let you down.

        1. May*

          Even if it ended up unenforceable or some other worst case scenario – it’s still good to have. If for no other reason than OP’s daughter knowing that at least OP tried to protect her.

          I say this as an adult child of divorce (parents had been married the same length of time as OP) who unfortunately had a parent, post-divorce, act unlike anything I had ever known them to be like – and they pulled all resources/insurance/ etc. to appease their new spouse. I know that my other parent can’t control the situation, but even after ten years it still hurts a little knowing that they just *assumed* it would be ok and that an agreement in place wasn’t needed. Especially given that people often say in relation to prenups that they didn’t have one because they didn’t think they’d ever get divorced… and my parents were getting divorced so obviously they knew first hand that things can absolutely change unexpectedly.

        2. KayEss*

          “Always leave room for people to let you down,” is a very good way to put it.

          The situations I’m anecdotally familiar with are more like “well of COURSE we will mutually contribute to our child’s college costs despite our marriage being over, that’s what being a parent means” and then 10 years later Dad says “well, I never signed anything to that effect, so I see no reason to dip into my Scrooge McDuck fortune for it.” When one person says they want a divorce, you are no longer partners with mutual interests. Make no assumptions, besides that you both have to look out for yourselves.

          1. HarvestKaleSlaw*

            Oh lord this one. The cherry on top is that the student is screwed for financial aid, because the formula still expects rich daddy to contribute.

            1. A Silver Spork*

              Yep, this massively messed up me and my siblings. Parents didn’t want to spend their money on our educations, despite telling us for the last two decades how important a degree was, that it’s the only thing worth going into debt for, etc. Sister ended up basically indenturing herself to a company to pay for her degree, brother dropped out and joined the army due to a lack of options, and I spent my entire college career a nervous wreck because I was terrified I’d lose my scholarship. (I don’t remember why exactly none of us saw loans as an option – possibly they wouldn’t let us take them out without a parental signature? It’s been a while.)

              1. Environmental Compliance*

                My parents managed to sign me up for Sallie Mae loans, which would have royally ducked me if I hadn’t had also had a very large scholarship. They contributed maybe $100 once or twice a year if I was concerned about food. But they like to remind me all the time of how much they “helped” with college. I mean, sure, you paid for car insurance….when I didn’t have a car on campus, and you technically helped me move a couple times, but you also saddled me with $80k in debt with an exorbitant interest rate, not to mention not letting me get a credit card (I snuck one on my name only when I got to college so I could at least start getting a credit score. Sibling didn’t listen to me, and now has no credit score and very, very minimal rent options).

                My birth ‘mother’ also did some shenanigans early on – I think I was maybe 9? – with the IRS, which somehow involved me…. IIRC, she was claiming me on some tax forms as a dependent, saying she put more money to support me than she did (anything is bigger than zero), and then falsely listed me in some way that the IRS actually attempted to come after me. At 9ish years old. Even more court battles for my poor dad.

                My parents weren’t malicious with college loans, but man, they did no research and had no idea what they signed me up for.

              2. JustaTech*

                I had something like this happen to a high school classmate (at a private high school, no less). Her parents told her, April of her senior year, that they wouldn’t pay for college. Since they had money that meant she had to find a non-merit scholarship. She was in total hysterics in the school pottery studio, just sobbing when the pottery teacher came in and told her the most amazing thing: “You will choose their nursing home.”

                The whole room just stopped and stared.

                (That classmate did get a scholarship, went to a good school and last I heard is doing fine in life, but who knows if her parents ever tried to repair that relationship.)

            2. Quill*

              Everything here today is an advertisement for universal healthcare and universal tuition rates.

          2. Eva Luna*

            Also, in the case of educational expenses, make sure the divorce decree spells out HOW each parent’s share is to be determined. My parents’ decree didn’t, so my dad’s position was that he should split the parental share with Mom 50/50. Of course he made several times as much as she did and by then had remarried someone who made even more than he did. Mom’s salary (combined with child support) was just enough to pay basic living expenses, as in most of our clothing was hand-me-downs from my cousins and grandmother or from Salvation Army. Dad ended up spending more money in court trying to make sure he didn’t pay more for my college expenses than he actually paid for my college expenses. And he wonders why I am angry about it…

        3. JKP*

          Yes to this. When my brother got divorced, the decree said his wife had to keep the kids on her insurance (she had the better policy). When he got a better job, he went ahead and added the kids to his policy just in case. Not even two weeks after he did that, there was a medical emergency with a multiple week hospital stay and he discovered his ex had let the insurance lapse the previous year because she didn’t want to pay the extra premium. Thank god he added them to his policy even though he technically shouldn’t have needed to.

          1. A volunteer*

            I dealt with a few of people over the years who were “highly motivated” to get on our company’s insurance ASAP. The custody agreements said that they had to cover the kids for health insurance AND, if they failed to do so, were soley responsible to pay the bill.Now that’s motivation.
            The there was this guy: Our company decided to implement the then new best practice of requiring everyone to furnish proof of their dependents eligibility. (You’d be surprised at the number of people who could not come up with birth certificates for their “kids”, custody papers for the grandkids they were raising, or a marriage certificate for the person they called a spouse.) One of our employees said he probably could come up with a marriage certificate but he might have trouble getting it from his ex-wife! They had been divorced for three years but, since the decree specified he had to cover her health insurance, he just kept her on the plan. This ended up being very costly for him because the COBRA deadline had long since passed and the only coverage available was an expensive individual plan.

        4. Jdc*

          Yep. We can’t get my husbands ex to do what it says and the courts don’t seem to care much. She lies of financial affidavits, doesn’t get dental insurance, you name it. Nothing happens.

        5. NotAnotherManager!*

          Been there, done that, have the t-shirt from my parents’ divorce. Court orders/decrees are only as enforceable as you have the money to do so. Many, many people do not have the money to keep taking an ex-spouse back to court for non-compliance, and, by the time the court gets around to hearing the matter, your house may already be in foreclosure or your kid’s racked up a $10K emergency room visit. And the court can only punish for noncompliance, not make them comply – they can send them to jail for contempt, garnish wages, etc., but, honestly, there are ways around all of that.

          It was amazing to me what my father could get away with by simply doing nothing. He ruined my mother’s credit, got her wages garnished by refusing to take her name off the title of his vehicle and then refusing to pay the property taxes, and pushed child support right up to the edge of being jailed for nonpayment. Very cut off his own nose to hurt her in any way possible. I just cannot identify with wanting to hurt someone else so badly that you take yourself (and your kid) out, too.

      2. Alice's Rabbit*

        Absolutely. It needs to be crystal clear, with no wiggle room. Definitive language, and all possibilities (even the worst, heaven forbid!) spelled out and planned for.

      3. Quill*

        Seen that one, seconding GET A LAWYER because a lawyer knows better than me what can and cannot be enforced.

        Though there are always ways for (rich) fathers to just… avoid paying consistently, in full, whatever. So long as they have more means to monkey with finances or lawyers than the mother.

        1. TardyTardis*

          Not to mention that a rich husband with a new wife can sue for custody of the kids because they are obviously better for the kids than a single mom working at McD’s.

    3. sunny-dee*

      I was about to stay, paying for insurance plus 50% of medical costs is actually the standard arrangement for the noncustodial parent in Texas (obviously, the final decree can be different, but that’s the standard proposed by the state). Assuming the daughter is a minor, that is definitely something she can push for and almost certainly get.

      Get a lawyer, though. Like, yesterday.

      1. Cj*

        Since children can stay on their parents health ins until they are 26, I’d be curious to know if their child is not a minor, and that’s why she’s worried he won’t do it.

        1. sunny-dee*

          That’s what I’m guessing, and it gets a lot murkier then. I’m not certain that the court could or would order him to cover expenses for an adult child and that does make it seem more important from her to keep her job.

          1. Something Clever TBD*

            In my state: no, court has no authority to order other parent to keep adult child on insurance (unless meet the statutory definition of a disabled adult child such that child support continues after 18/19). It varies by state, but I’ve practiced family law in 4 different states, and it was the same in each.

        2. kt*

          Doesn’t the parent have to do the paperwork, though?

          My kid (with my spouse) is on spouse’s insurance; he had to do paperwork. In my previous job, she was on mine, and I had to do paperwork.

        3. Letterwriter*

          Letterwriter here: Our daughter is 20. Our son is 27 with a family of his own thank god. I do not trust that my soon-to-be ex-husband will do anything to keep her insured voluntarily.

    4. Hey Karma, Over Here*

      OP, please, please, please separate yourself from this idea that you need to stay in this job for the insurance. You don’t need to sacrifice your needs, much less your shared daughter’s needs, to his want of an easy out from his life.
      You do not have to keep your divorce a secret. You do not have to support your child all by yourself. You do not have to stay in a job where your boss mistreated you WHILE married to you. You do not.

  5. AnotherAlison*

    Ugh, OP, I’m so sorry. Your husband sounds like a real piece of work. I know there are terrible women, too, but all my personal experiences have been with narc men who do things like this and act like it’s perfectly fine to treat someone that way (not my spouse but others in the family). With your daughter’s condition, it’s doubly awful.

    Absolutely take the advice on the divorce and employment legal consultations, and get out of your work situation when you can (even if it’s down the road). No need to see this jerk and his affair partner every day.

  6. WellRed*

    your organization sounds ripe for multiple and ongoing abuses. A dumpster fire in the making. Your husband? no words.

    1. WellRed*

      Just reread more closely. Your husband and your company are very much in the wrong here. I hope you realize that, but you seem to be afraid it will all work against you (and maybe it will based on other things you’ve seen at your company). Lawyer, lawyer, lawyer, especially on the divorce side of things.

    2. TCO*

      Yeah, I wouldn’t be surprised if this org is rife with other dysfunctions that OP isn’t seeing because she (and her husband) have been steeped in it for so long. Finding a new job might be a breath of fresh air in many ways beyond just the obvious issue.

    3. Dust Bunny*

      I used to work at a place (small business in a smallish town) that had a habit of hiring everyone’s sisters, cousins, brother’s girlfriends, classmates, etc. and THAT was bad enough even though there was very little chain of command. But everything was drama because if one person complained, her (employees were mostly young women; normal in the field) friends and frenemies all got involved. And except for one or two they were mostly reasonable people, they were all just far too related.

      I stayed less than a year.

      1. hbc*

        I took over a place that was all based on “I know a guy”, and yeah, not good. The two brothers and a cousin thing was less bad than I thought (the slacker’s brother was the first to say he should go), but we ended up with only one of them after a year and a half. The cleaning person was getting paid more than the administrative staff for half the hours because…connections.

        I had so many bizarre conversations trying to break the old, bad habits. “No, you aren’t going to get fired if you refuse to stay late to make furniture for [former favorite]. The thing that would get anyone fired is using that equipment for a personal project!”

  7. Matilda Jefferies*

    Oh my gosh, OP. I wish I could give you a hug right now. This is so much to deal with all at once! Please get yourself a good lawyer, and line up your Team You to help you through this. Sending you all the strength in the world – please take care of yourself.

      1. Ashley*

        Yes – two lawyers very much. The employment lawyer is going to have a whole host of other things to deal with to make sure you are protected. (Even if you decide to leave there can still be issues with references and general badmouthing to make sure you are protected.)
        The best of the luck with all of this for you and your child.

    1. Cat Meowmy Admin*

      + 1 million to all this! Dear OP, I wish for you an invisible force field to protect you as you maneuver through this. Take one step at a time, even if it’s just one breath, then another… take time to care for yourself so that you can care for your daughter. Research anything you need to do, then plan out your action strategy. You have been through an emotional and professional nightmare, but I know you will come through this far better off, because you are worthy of so much more. Please remember that. Sending hugs and badass vibes of strength to you.

    2. Quinalla*

      Yes, get a lawyer ASAP. I’m so sorry :(

      And I agree with the rest of the advice as well, you should definitely go to your higher up and let them know what is happening. That way you can get your side of the story in front of them and since they helped in the past when your husband was giving you crap assignments, hopefully they will now too.

  8. Sara without an H*

    OP, this is truly, truly a horror show, and you have my deepest sympathy. Please take Alison’s advice and lawyer up NOW. Don’t wait another day.

    Be careful about any sense of loyalty you may feel to your employer (or your husband, for that matter). Right now all your loyalty has to be reserved for yourself and your daughter.

  9. Fiona the Baby Hippo*

    The fact that the OP’s husband treated her like shit to avoid favoritism…. is really something. Sounds like he was using the ‘no favoritism’ guise as an excuse to just be an awful person. I’m so sorry, OP.

    1. LTL*

      I’ll be honest, this was my first thought as well. But there are people out there who would indeed treat their spouse badly to avoid the appearance of favoritism.

      But even assuming his intentions are what he says they are, why would anyone prioritize the appearance of favoritism over their partner’s wellbeing?

      1. Naomi*

        Even if that was genuinely his intention, treating your spouse worse than you would a random employee isn’t a solution to the conflict of interest! It’s just the conflict of interest manifesting as a different kind of problem. The director at least seems to have recognized that, and intervened in the situation… but failed to solve the root problem of an employee managing their spouse.

      2. Observer*

        Yes, I am sure that there are people who would mistreat their spouses to “avoid the appearance of favoritism”. But in most cases, it’s not about that, it’s about wanting to look good (ie he doesn’t care about the morale hit, but the ability to show off.) And in this context? I don’t think he deserves much benefit of the doubt.

    2. Not So NewReader*

      I have seen this in NPOs where the person does not even know what their job is because boss/family member doesn’t want to show favoritism. Sorry, but at that point of hire the favoritism ship has already sailed and all the meanness in the world will not sink that ship. The truth is, OP, without this dude your life is just about to get hugely better.
      Still hurts though and for that I am sorry for your pain/heartbreak. You are in my thoughts, OP.

      I hope where ever you land on all this you never have to put up with a boss’ meanness in order to stay employed.

    3. HarvestKaleSlaw*

      Yeah – first thought that popped into my head was, “Huh. I wonder how he’s treating his side girl at work.”

      1. TardyTardis*

        I suppose it would be wrong to wonder how much life insurance he has and who the beneficiary is…

  10. That Girl From Quinn's House*

    So funnily enough, I worked for a few months at a nonprofit that was a disaster, and one of the phrases that came out of my boss’s mouth while discussing the mess was, “Well, they changed our line of report so the Senior VP overseeing our branch is Tangerina Warbleworth, so we have a lot less leeway to break rules than we used to. When we reported to Senior VP Fergus Jones, we had more leeway because he’s our office manager Lucinda Jones’s husband and he gave us tons of room to do what we wanted to do.”

    1. Important Moi*

      The level of honesty in that statement is equal parts horrifying and refreshing. Was any of that illegal too?

      1. That Girl From Quinn's House*

        It wasn’t go-to-jail illegal, but it was definitely lawsuit-Russian-roulette on a daily basis. I do not think a single rule was being followed with respect to any of the internal or external regulations we were required to follow. Like, if someone had come in with 300 rules on a single checklist, we might have gotten credit for following 10 of them if they showed up on a good day. That bad.

        1. irene adler*

          Jumpin’ jack flash!
          Why bother with establishing rules & regs if this is the attitude towards them and very little consequence occurs when ignoring them?

          1. Jules the 3rd*

            Because most external audits can’t figure out how to check whether the rules & regs are being followed outside of a narrow specialty, usually accounting. Safety, HR – you have to pay a *lot* to get those audited, and most people don’t.

            1. Important Moi*

              I did not know that those types of audits would be way more expensive. Unfortunately that makes sense. An organization can say it has been audited found to be in compliance and not provide the scope of the audit.

              I learned something today.

  11. fposte*

    Oh, no, OP, I’m sorry; what a mess.

    I vote strongly for going to the director. While I can’t promise you that they’ll handle it the way they ought, it is much likelier to be helpful than hurtful, and I think it’s actually an obligation to disclose a problem with a manager. More to the point, though, a stressful situation like this makes us likelier to make a risk of omission because commission becomes so much scarier. In reality, taking clear, planned actions–meeting with the director, consulting with a lawyer–are likely to give you a better outcome and make you feel more in control of the situation than lying low and hoping the impact isn’t too bad. So I’d recommend taking those actions unless there was something clear and specific that really made it clear that would make things worse.

    1. J.B.*

      Yes. I would also consult with an employment attorney first, so that if they decide to push you out the attorney can negotiate you the best darn severance ever seen.

  12. Choggy*

    The only thing I can add is to talk to an attorney FIRST. Let them in on all the gory details so they can provide you with direction about what you should and should NOT include in your discussion with the ED. Since your husband is divorcing you, due to him having an affair, I think you should have the upper hand here. Make sure you are getting everything you need for yourself and your daughter and definitely find another job when you can. As soon as I read the words my husband is my boss I immediately knew this was going to be a bad situation. I am so sorry you are going through this especially during a time when your daughter is so ill, sending good thoughts for her recovery, and yours.

    1. Matilda Jefferies*

      OP’s husband is having an affair *with a colleague,* which almost certainly means the colleague is going to be involved in this shitshow as well.

      Definitely lawyer first, ED second, and getting the hell out of Dodge as soon as you possibly can after that. Love to you and your daughter.

      1. Dust Bunny*

        I would like to think the director will be fair about this but the place sounds like such a disaster that I am very much afraid husband + affair partner = allies in shared self-interest against the LW.

        1. The Original K.*

          I don’t have any reason to think the director will be fair – the fish rots from the head. If the executive director could be married to the head of the most important department and nobody batted an eye, you have a cultural and systemic problem in your organization. This is a whole, entire mess.

          1. hbc*

            Yeah, when I saw the word “affair,” I immediately assumed it was with someone at the same organization. That’s how messed up it is.

        2. PollyQ*

          At minimum, the director has shown a horrible lack of sense by allowing a husband to be a wife’s boss, and not just this once, but apparently in other similar cases. Hopefully he’s not a bad person and will try to help LW, but I sure wouldn’t trust his judgment.

          1. Paulina*

            And especially after the husband’s anti-favoritism showed him that this particular spouse reporting relationship was a problem. The specialty is a company priority and only organizationally in the husband’s department, but it sounds like reorganizing to break the known-to-be problematic conflict of interest wasn’t considered. To this layperson that screams liability, and you can’t depend on the ED to acknowledge it by themselves.

      2. 2 Cents*

        Bonus points if the colleague this POS is having an affair with is also married to a spouse employed by this nonprofit?

      3. Autumnheart*

        I’d really want to know if this “colleague” is actually someone who reports to him.

    2. HarvestKaleSlaw*

      I would also try to get a good record (recording, letter, email, contemporaneous notes) of “I’ve been bonking Lurlene in accounts payable and want a divorce so we can be together.” Because the story will change before you get in front of a judge, and he will deny ever having said it. My best bet is that he’ll say that the idea to divorce was mutual (or even your idea), and he only got together with Lurlene once you two were separated.

    3. Generic Name*

      YES. Please tell your lawyer even if it doesn’t seem super relevant or you don’t want to feed into drama. Your lawyer needs to know everything.

    4. Pommette!*

      Yes! You can tell the lawyer that you want to do things as amicably as possible. They can guide you through that. If things go well, you’ve covered your bases, and no one from work ever needs know that you have consulted. And if things go badly, you’ll know it sooner, and will be able to respond right away.

  13. Mama Bear*

    It is not uncommon for a parent to be required as part of the divorce to carry insurance for the child(ren). A judge can make him legally obligated. Also, she can be insured by a parent until at least 26 under current guidelines. I also agree to bring it up with the director, especially since the pattern of giving you terrible jobs is known. Who stood up for you in the past, OP? I’d start there.

    1. TootsNYC*

      I agree, the insurance thing shouldn’t be a problem. She -might- need a court order, but peer pressure could do much the same thing in the short run.

      1. Observer*

        Peer pressure? In this org? This is a place that wouldn’t recognize ethics if you beat them over the head with it.

    2. A Non E. Mouse*

      It is not uncommon for a parent to be required as part of the divorce to carry insurance for the child(ren). A judge can make him legally obligated.

      As others have stated, this can be in the decree but is very hard to enforce.

      For instance, I just got Cobra information in the mail for my children, and didn’t even know their father had switched (lost?) his job.

      It’s in our decree that he carry the insurance, but this same or similar scenario has happened enough over the years that I just carry insurance on them full time, so that when (not if) he isn’t carrying it, they are covered, and when he is carrying them on insurance, we have a little help on costs.

      Double-whammy, he gets a reduction in his child support for this supposed cost each month, so he’s paying less *and* I’m out more money.

      So, yeah. I would caution any divorcing parent to consider both parties carrying insurance.

      1. I can only speak Japanese*

        I’m not a lawyer, but wouldn’t the spouse be responsible for medical costs the kids incur through his lack of insurance for them?

        1. A Non E. Mouse*

          Yes. But only through more court action, which costs money and time to initiate.

  14. pieska*

    O. M. G. How long has the affair been going on? I bet that was the real reason he was mistreating LW.

    1. TootsNYC*

      I wouldn’t be surprised–he was worried his affair partner would think he was favoring his wife. And perhaps he wanted to make it so unpleasant for her that SHE would be the one to leave–either the job, or the marriage–so he didn’t have to.

    2. Paulina*

      Yes. And if he picked now to suddenly ask for a divorce, then he’s picked it deliberately because their daughter’s illness and the pressure it has on the OP makes it harder for the OP to fight back. He’s taking a situation that should have him showing care for his daughter, and instead using it as a weapon against his wife. What a piece of work.

  15. New Job So Much Better*

    Agree on getting a lawyer right away. So sorry you are dealing with this.

    1. Champagne Cocktail*

      Yes, very much this. And it’s time to document everything that could possibly be relevant in case it’s needed later. Keep hard copies of emails.

      I’m so sorry you’re in this mess. Best of luck, LW!

  16. The Starsong Princess*

    Something similar happened at a company where my sister worked. The husband was CEO and the wife, Sansa, was COO. My sister recommended Cersei for an open position who decided she wanted both the position of wife and COO.

    Soon enough, the husband and Cersei were having an affair. The marriage ended and Cersei got her promotion. Sansa was fired as was my sister who Cersei perceived as Sansa’s friend. It was odd as Cersei was originally my sister’s friend but she cleaned house.

    There is a happy ending. The husband felt guilty so Sansa got a good financial settlement and felt the divorce was the best thing to happen to her. My sister got a big payout too. Cersei got rid of all the competent people do the place went bankrupt in 2 years. But what a sh!tshow!

    1. Batty Twerp*

      Ok, I’m now getting motion sickness from the rollercoaster that was the original letter and this comment!
      What is *wrong* with people?!!
      Seriously, the world has gone so far into the Twilight Zone the door is a dot on the horizon.

    2. Hey Karma, Over Here*

      And the only one who didn’t see it coming was CEO. Because Cersei didn’t care. Just a shark feeding. This place is gone. On to the next.

      1. so anon*

        That is the best description of a former colleague, and stalker of my spouse I have ever heard. Just a shark feeding. Thanks for that.

        1. HarvestKaleSlaw*

          It comes natural to some people, doesn’t it? You can learn to spot them, but that ability usually comes at a cost.

  17. TootsNYC*

    I would go immediately to an employment lawyer and see what sorts of leverage there is here. Would any negative assignment or interaction with the husband count as a sexual harassment situation?

    And if I were a director, I would want to know–because someone this high up in the organization having an affair with a colleague is a sexual harassment risk.
    It would also alarm me horribly that someone with managerial responsibilities had this little fidelity and this little judgment. Especially if I had already had to step in to deal with his mismanagement.
    Frankly, I could find or promote someone to do his job. The OP’s specialty might be harder to replace.

  18. Homebody*

    I wish I had something helpful to say. Good luck OP, I hope things get better for you and your daughter soon.

  19. Bob*

    You need two lawyers, a divorce lawyer and an employment lawyer.
    I wonder if there is anyone who does both (and is that even ethical)?
    And vet your lawyers carefully. Carefully.

    Oh and your husband treated you worse to avoid favourtism charges. No, he enjoyed it.
    Be ruthless in protecting your interests, he will try to play you or take further advantage of you.

    You also need an emotional support system and a new place to live.

    1. Janis Mayhem*

      I work at a law firm where we don’t have one attorney that handles both, but a few attorneys who work collaboratively on cases like this. OP, if you’re in the mid Atlantic region, somehow message me.

    2. Quill*

      Unlikely you get one lawyer to do two specialties, more likely you get a firm that does multiple specialties and get two lawyers from them working different angles of the same case.

  20. Employment Lawyer*

    Repeat after me:

    Lawyer up
    Lawyer up
    Lawyer up
    Lawyer up

    Secretly, FWIW: FIRST talk to the lawyer and then, IF THE LAWYER SAYS SO, tell the husband.

    1. Bob*

      I feel you have understated your case ;)
      Since your an employment lawyer can you tell us if there are combination divorce/employment lawyers?
      Since she does need both.

      1. Jules the 3rd*

        The situation of working for your husband is so far out of the US norm that there probably aren’t a lot of combo divorce / employment lawyers. Assume one of each; if you like the first lawyer maybe they can recommend a good lawyer for the other specialty.

        1. Mockingbird*

          A large law firm may have both types of lawyers, which would help with the collaboration. Mine does – and no one was more surprised than me when we added family lawyers to our firm. But it turns out that a lot of executives of our clients needed a family lawyer for one reason or another, and firm management decided it would be good to keep those referrals in-house.

        2. Something Clever TBD*

          Divorce lawyers deal with issues like this all the time – but usually one spouse owns the business, which is a bit different.
          My two cents: the best divorce lawyers only do divorce. I don’t know any that dabble in anything else – it’s usually an exclusive family law practice. I have several employment lawyers that I refer people to when issues arise in my cases.
          With lawyers, the old saying “jack of all trades, master of none” is very true.

  21. Dust Bunny*

    I sort of feel like this LW has taken the idea of behaving professionally/keeping a stiff upper lip a little too far, perhaps because her organization is out of control? Or perhaps because her spouse has a history of behaving outrageously and leaving her to deal with the fallout?

    LW, don’t sacrifice yourself in an extreme effort to avoid stirring the waters. Your director needs to know. He may not act appropriately, but at least you’ve given him the opportunity. Also, I very much doubt you can depend on your almost-ex to behave ethically in this situation, and not looping your director him is just giving your almost-ex an advantage.

    Also, if your director fails you on this, do not ignore that. You will never be safe at this organization.

    1. Hey Karma, Over Here*

      sort of feel like this LW has taken the idea of behaving professionally/keeping a stiff upper lip a little too far, perhaps because her organization is out of control?
      Absolutely! This is not, “I will take responsibility for being an hour late this morning instead of saying my husband turned off my alarm.”
      This is, “my husband is my supervisor and he started divorce proceedings. I am concerned about my job and my benefits.”

      1. Dust Bunny*

        I’m getting a “I am concerned about looking slightly dramatic and airing dirty laundry,” vibe, which makes me wonder if the LW hasn’t had 28 years of her spouse training her to not make waves so he/they as a family can save face. I feel like this is about more than the job and possibly has a gaslight-y overtone. Because looping your director in on the fact that another employee might have it in for you is neither dramatic nor dirty laundry, and this should not give her pause.

        1. Mimosa Jones*

          I half wonder if the husband is encouraging silence because the truth will expose some lies but phrasing it as “we don’t air our dirty laundry.”

          1. Dust Bunny*

            I absolutely think that’s what’s going on, and probably has been for their whole marriage so she’s lost sight of what’s fair and reasonable.

      2. Letterwriter*

        Letterwriter here: Thank you for the script i can use when speaking to the director – because reading Alisons wonderful reply and the comments I realise I have to speak to him and then ask to be transferred to another manager. I am definitively worried about being percieved as airing dirty laundry, and I fear the public humiliation and the backlash that will come when the workplace gossip starts. So thank you for providingme with a professional way of opening the subject.

    2. Not So NewReader*

      Definitely, OP, you are shouldering way too much here and you have been shouldering way too much for quite a while. Please step back and just observe as if you were listening to a friend tell you this story. Pretend this is a very good friend who you really care about. What would you tell her? What do you think she should do to get to a better spot?

      1. Dust Bunny*

        This. My cousin told her friends a funny story about her husband leaving her stranded on a remote country road to teach her a lesson about losing track of time at the barn and was met with a half-dozen horrified stares because OH WAIT that’s not actually a funny situation and when she thought about it her husband was a manipulative a-hole in so many other ways as well.

        1. SweetestCin*

          WTF? You don’t “teach lessons” to adults. You just don’t. You request better communication, etc. You don’t do X to teach them a lesson.

          I almost feel like that needs to be said out loud at some point in middle school, that adults don’t do this. Its either a jerky move or organized crime.

          1. Dust Bunny*

            Fear not–they’re long divorced and their daughter is counting down the years until she’s 18 and doesn’t have to visit him any more.

            1. allathian*

              I’m glad I live in a country where kids have some say. Kids have the right to see both parents and social services will jump through hoops to make this happen, but both parents don’t necessarily have the right to see the kid. If the kid is absolutely vehement about not wanting to see one of the parents, the court has to listen to them. They do try and make sure that it’s not a case where one parent badmouths the other to the kid until the no longer wants to have anything to do with the other parent, although that does unfortunately happen sometimes.

        2. Important Moi*

          You cannot see the forest from the trees sometimes. When you’re in it, you don’t always see it.

  22. Not One of the Bronte Sisters*

    Definitely consult an employment lawyer. I wonder if the way to go here is a lengthy, like a year, severance period and an agreement that references from that job will be as good as they deserve to be. Severance on full salary and all benefits for OP and her daughter and OP should leave rather quickly. And the divorce should certainly include the husband providing their daughter’s health insurance. I would consult an employment lawyer before telling the big boss anything. But OP does need to speak to the big boss soon.

    1. If Wishes Were Horses*

      “Definitely consult an employment lawyer. I wonder if the way to go here is a lengthy, like a year, severance period and an agreement that references from that job will be as good as they deserve to be. Severance on full salary and all benefits for OP and her daughter and OP should leave rather quickly.” <– Employment lawyer will need to determine how much leverage OP has over the company before she starts making maximalist demands, though.

  23. EPLawyer*

    Two lawyers — who will ideally work together and be on the same page. 1) family law to handle the divorce and 2) an employment lawyer. Also speak to a counselor (not a counselor at law but ya know, therapist type person). You are going to go through a very rough time with your divorce and your daughter’s illnes. You need a safe place to let it all out and get some help coping. This WILL NOT hurt you in the divorce. Courts want people to seek help when they need it and do not penalize them for it.

    This absolutely sucks. Please update us if you feel up to it.

    1. required name*

      Therapists can absolutely be subpoenaed for client records in relation to a divorce/custody disputes. Even if’s it’s frowned upon (which is what I think you’re implying), it’s not an impossibility.

  24. Jennifer*

    Get a lawyer. Now. I’m sorry for all you are going through. I don’t see any other answer. Don’t do anything else until you’ve talked to an attorney. This is exactly why spouses shouldn’t manage each other but no one has a time machine.

  25. Health Insurance Nerd*

    LW, first, I am so sorry you are going through this- sending you all of the internet hugs!

    Second- I don’t know if anyone else has commented along these lines, but document, document, document, document. Keep every email, make a record of every conversation, print and/or forward this documentation to your personal email if need be. If you’ve got performance reviews, records of accolades from colleagues and clients, print or send it all to yourself. Arm yourself with whatever ammunition you can so that you’re in the best position to build a case if (when) things go south.

    1. Yazah*

      I’m also going to add to this: change your passwords. Email, phone, social media, banking, whatever, I’d change them all. If you’re sending documentation to your email, I would create a new free email account (gmail or one of the others) to send stuff to.
      I may be overly paranoid here, but you don’t want to collect all this and then have it mysteriously disappear because your soon-to-be ex got in and deleted everything.

      1. Observer*

        Yes, change ALL your passwords. Make sure your STBX has not access to a PENNY that belongs to you.

    2. Jules the 3rd*

      Print and save in a place *that your husband can not access* – PO box, safe deposit box at a bank. Friend or relative is a last resort, or if you really need to save the $$, husband may get around them.

    3. Seeking Second Childhood*

      I would also say to get copies of your family photos and any family archival materials off site as well. I hate to say that but I have seen arguments that devolved to someone withholding sentimental items that have no $ value in order to get something of financial value.

  26. History Chick*

    Does your non-profit have an EAP? I’ve worked at non-profits small and large. The small ones didn’t, but the large ones did. If so, many of EAPs often offer a legal advise component and have lawyers available for consultation. (When I was getting divorced, they were able to give me only very basic advice, but then helped me find divorce lawyers in my area.) If you are feeling overwhelmed by the FIND A LAWYER NOW comments, that might be a good place to start. The EAP legal assistance may be able to provide you with the very basics and a list of lawyers in your area.

    1. TCO*

      Even my small nonprofits have offered EAPs. It’s worth looking in to as a starting point. The EAP provider might report back to the org about the number of employees who used the service, but wouldn’t be sharing names or other details with OP’s employer.

  27. Mainely Professional*

    Sounds like the kind of non-profit that has a completely dysfunctional staff – board relationship. If the board was doing its fiduciary duty it would not have allowed things to get this bad.

    1. Not So NewReader*

      Just my opinion but this is what happens when boards are afraid. They are afraid the donors will quit donating, they are afraid key staff people will quit, they are afraid that people will stop using the NPOs services. People loaded up with fear allow a lot of stuff to slide.

      1. Dust Bunny*

        I work for a nonprofit and our board isn’t afraid, but they also don’t really know what goes on most of the time. We’re a private academic library and at least a few of the board members literally thought that if there weren’t researchers physically in the building that day, we had nothing to do. Not fielding online inquiries, not processing collections, not updating search software, nothing.

        I would guess the board has no idea how big a mess this place is.

  28. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd (ENTP)*

    OP, just to clarify?: your ED recruited (“headhunted”) you, then you moved up the ranks, then at some point that same ED put your (stb-ex)-husband in a “head of department” position over you? (As it sounds like you were in that role before he was put in charge since you said he is now your boss but hasn’t always been?)

    I would speak to the ED to “get in ahead of the narrative”; can you be moved somewhere else on the org chart to report to someone else in the meantime? But if that ED didn’t have much insight about those kind of potential issues, it may be no-go anyway.

    I can -almost- understand in a dysfunctional place where people can be in relationships with people they report to: being “more critical” of a report who they’re married to (as a kind of overcompensating to show that there’s no bias) but to actively “badmouth” and “give negative feedback to [the big boss]”?

    I’m curious actually what the “affair partner”s place is in the org chart relative to the husband. I think that would be quite telling.

    1. Letterwriter*

      Letterwriter here: Thank you: I should have been clearer on the point: The EP promoted me to my current position before my soon-to-be ex-husband was promoted to be my manager. The affair partner is a report of my ex-husband.

  29. OrigCassandra*

    OP, I got through my divorce without a lawyer, BUT there were neither children (never mind sick children) nor a reporting relationship nor an affair partner in a joint workplace to maneuver around.

    Lawyer, lawyer, lawyer, lawyer, LAWYER. LAWYER UP before you do ANYTHING else. You need at least one lawyer and quite likely two, as other commenters have observed. You don’t just have to protect yourself against the regular fallout of divorce — you have to protect yourself against your workplace and those in it. And your workplace is full of evil bees!

    Re talking to the director: I’d want my lawyer starting and/or witnessing the convo if I were you, I really would. Now, if your lawyer says “let’s not start with the legal nastygrams,” okay, do what they tell you… but definitely ask them for what you should and shouldn’t say to the director. Minimal delay is also a good idea — see if your lawyer can get to the director before soon-to-be-ex-husband does.

    I am so, so sorry. This is awful. My best wishes for your daughter’s health, your health and strength, and a swift, just resolution to this mess.

  30. emmelemm*

    I just want to address the “finding a new job is next to impossible” – I get that it feels like that, I do. I have various factors that make me feel like getting a new job is virtually impossible. But a) it’s not, and b) even in the time of corona virus, we see that people *are* still getting jobs, sometimes, somewhere. Alison’s good news posts have been very helpful.

    I tie this to: You say you work in “a specialist capacity that is a recognized priority” to the organization. You have Valuable Skills. Specialized skills. And if this organization needs them, other organizations need them too. Remember that. You may have let your husband’s undeserved negative feedback get to your head, but deep down you know that you have something employers need. Make use of it.

    And yes, your daughter should be able to stay on your husband’s insurance; any divorce decree worth its salt, especially looking at the facts in *this* case, would guarantee it.

    1. Not So NewReader*

      Yep, this, so much this, OP. In places like this the better the person is at their job then more the employer tries to tear down that person. Just a guess, but I am think you are probably very good at your job and a good employer would be thrilled to have you with them.

  31. Observer*

    OP, lawyer up. Don’t mention the lawyer unless you need to, but talk to a lawyer TODAY.

    If the ED has any sense, they will move you. No matter how valuable your (soon to be ex) husband may be, they simply cannot allow him to fire you, because even if you were really bad at what you do, anyone is going to see this as pretext. If you are at all competent, that it won’t take a genius to see the pretext.

    Make sure you have documentation of all of your positive work reviews, and how the other execs had to step in to keep your husband from mistreating you. Oh, and please recognize that the reason you husband was mistreating you was almost certainly not because he was trying to avoid unconscious bias, but because he’s a jerk who didn’t value you.

    But Allison is also right about looking for another job. It’s a ridiculous situation for you. And the organization is TOTALLY messed up. The idea that an ED could be married to someone who reports directly to him crosses every possible red line you could think of. I can’t imagine what other ethical lapses are going on there.

  32. Llellayena*

    I agree with lawyer first. Have the initial convo with the lawyer, let them know you’ll be talking to the director so they have a heads up if things go sideways. Then the next day tell the director something like “My husband is divorcing me. I’d like to change who my position reports to so we can keep the divorce out of work as much as possible. Can I report to Charlie instead? I think my role aligns with his department because of X.” Problem and solution in one, and nothing about the reason for the divorce, leave that for someone else to gossip about so it doesn’t look like you being petty.

  33. cmcinnyc*

    OP, you say “affair with a colleague” and as messy as this situation is already–DO YOU MEAN SOMEONE ELSE AT THIS SAME COMPANY?!?!?!?! Because if yes, you need to do all of the above (lawyer, tell director) but you also need to tell the director who your husband is having an affair with. No, listen, you do. First of all, everyone who doesn’t know now will know soon. If he is leaving the head of X department to be with the VP of Y department, this is not going to be private. And really, if anyone should lose their job over it, it’s him. He’s managing his wife (badly) and screwing another coworker and this is just an epic shitshow. You can and you will protect your job and your insurance and even your dignity, but you’re going to have to act. Don’t let anybody tell you “the high road” means not taking care of yourself. The high road is doing your job and not gossiping or sniping at work, but your husband, and your colleague, don’t get anywhere to hide in this scenario. That’s on them. (Is this perhaps a large not-for-profit theater, hmm? Because y’all know drama.)

  34. Chumped Also*

    Not sure if you are reading this far, but I highly recommend visiting Chump Lady (google will get you there). She has a blog that will help you walk through this journey that no one wants. It helped me to see that I was not alone and that cheaters are all the same.

    One bit of advice from that website is to meet with the best lawyers in the area to set up a conflict of interest. Not sure is that is still valid, but wanted to mention it.

    Bees, you are surrounded by bees…walk slowly away, to a much better life.

    1. Eliza*

      I wouldn’t recommend the “consult every good lawyer in the area to create conflicts of interest” tactic; I’ve heard of cases where it backfired badly. Judges can find out when you’ve done this and it will not leave them with a good impression of you.

    2. Anon for this*

      My ex did that to me. It’s shitty and it’s not how you win. It’s a form of financial and emotional abuse.

  35. Third or Nothing!*

    OH MY WORD. I have no advice for you, LW, only my deepest sympathies. This is a truly sucky situation, and I’m really sorry your jerkface of a husband violated your marriage vows and basically abandoned you and your daughter. If I could make you a nice warm cup of tea and offer you a space on my couch to vent, I totally would. My usual reaction is to ask if people need a hug, so consider this comment your socially distant Internet hug.

  36. knitcrazybooknut*

    OP, I’m so, so sorry you’re going through this. I really hope you’ve got someone in your life that is in your corner, whether it’s family, friend or anyone else who has your best interests in mind, and can help you through this process. I can’t imagine what this feels like, and I would strongly suggest that you make use of your existing therapist, or try to find one (as impossible as that may seem right now). You’re going to need all kinds of help to get through this.

    Please take care of yourself as much as you can. I agree that you need at least one lawyer, and you need to let your grandboss know what’s happening now.

    I’m so sorry.

  37. Not So NewReader*

    OP, if you want to and are up for it, I’d love to see an update of how you are doing. Totally, totally understandable if you chose not to, of course.
    Picture a slew of people here cheering for you and hang on to that image in your brain. I wish you and your child the absolute best.

    1. CastIrony*

      Yes, I would also like to see how OP is doing sometime down the road, but I agree that they should do what is best for them.

      Good luck, OP!

  38. Red Sky*

    I dont care how long it takes, but I really need an update to this one. OP if you’re reading, lawyer up and (metaphorically) burn your dirtbag of a husband and dysfunctional workplace to the ground.

  39. Lauren Conrad*

    Holy moly. Part of me wants to say you poor thing, but I also want to say that to all the other people who have undoubtedly been through something similar. The more a workplace is ok with a generally bad idea (married employees) the more people do it and feel ok about doing and that therein lies the problem. It does not sound like a bad guy-good guy scenario here. It sounds like a 1960s mad men style workplace that never changed. Or maybe a few employees got their spouses hired years ago when times were tough and someone needed jobs or they had trouble filling a spot and then a few more people did it and it escalated until no one finally had the courage to say, “Why are we allowing this?” Best of luck to you and to your daughter.

  40. Gamer Girl*

    In addition to lawyering up today: document, document, document!

    If nothing else: Change your passwords TODAY. Make sure your husband does NOT have your personal passwords, especially for assets that are in your name only. Claim anything as an excuse for changing them if he has your passwords and notices–you read an article about hacking, you got a notification about a possible breach, your antivirus software suggested it… Remember to change social media passwords since those are now so often linked to other accounts.

    Do you have emails or texts you can pull that show this reverse favoritism and any other willfully unfair stuff to you? Or from others, like the ED? Backup and/or screenshot all of your personal text messages, to preserve these records. Create a new email address for yourself that you can forward work emails to, at a minimum, since I guess he could technically get IT to go fishing in your work emails and chat logs? Your employment lawyer will need as much documentation as you can legally get your hands on.

    Download whatever you can about your bank accounts and assets TODAY into a safe space. Bank statements, loan info, lines of credit. Everything. Since he only just told you about the divorce, I hope he hasn’t been smart enough to start hiding money before telling you?

    OP, I’m so sorry that your daughter is sick and that your husband did this s***** thing to you, on top of all the rest of it.

  41. Trixie, the Great and Pedantic*

    OP, is this a nonprofit for the lobbying interest of red flags? Because holy 18 plates of Arceus is this place full of red flags.

    Lawyer up. Start providing documentation about the “reverse” favoritism… and if there’s any way you can determine whether he’s showing favoritism to the colleague he’s having an affair with, I’d also dig for that. The way you’re phrasing things makes it sound like he was deliberately messing with you while he was messing around with the colleague.

    Speaking to the director probably won’t help, but not being the first to broach things with the director definitely won’t help. You don’t want your husband shaping the narrative.

    Best of luck to you and your daughter. I hope she gets all the care she needs to make a full recovery.

  42. Free now (and forever)*

    These are specialized areas of practice. You do NOT want a combination divorce/employment attorney, who would just be a general practitioner and would know only a little bit about each subject. Sometimes, you get what you pay for.

  43. Ezri Dax*

    I’m going to put up the info for the National Domestic Violence Hotline, in case that’s helpful. I apologize if I’m reading too much into what is written, but your fears of retaliation, of him causing you to lose your job, stripping your daughter of her health insurance, etc., sound a lot like someone dealing with financial abuse. I’m so sorry you’re dealing with all this, OP. I hope you and your daughter are able to find physical, emotional, and economic safety soon.
    Number for National Domestic Violence Hotline: 1−800−799−7233; website:

  44. Something Clever TBD*

    Divorce lawyer thoughts –
    1. Child may be a legal adult (varies by state, but usually 18/19…a minority 21) and thus not subject to support requirements, but still young enough to be on mom’s insurance. In my state, there is nothing the court can do about that – they lack authority to order support for an adult child unless they qualify as a disabled adult (which would be a child with lifelong impairments, not an adult that gets ill). It comes up all the time – one parent (usually mom) is still providing a lot of support to “adult” children in young 20s, and I have to break the bad news that other parent doesn’t have to contribute.
    2. If spousal support or child support is in play, he would be an idiot to make her lose her job. I have clients all the time who come in and talk some revenge fantasy about exposing their spouse as a bad person at work – which gets forgotten very quickly when I talk to them about how that would effect support.

  45. Jennifer Juniper*

    OP, if you’re in the US, you may be able to get Medicaid for yourself and your daughter if you get fired, depending on what state you’re in.

    I’m so sorry this is happening to you! Good luck.

  46. NoLongerStuckInRetailHell*

    I think this is definitely a case of “toxic workplace warps your norms so badly you don’t recognize how awful it is”. She has worked there for 10 years, her husband for 20 years, and SHE is all worried about behaving professionally and keeping her private life private, while this company is a dumpster-fire of inappropriate relationships burning down around her ears.

  47. Batgirl*

    Bees! All the evil bees! I was a betrayed spouse too and (although things were, on a surface level, mostly great) there’s definitely a correlation between a husband who would behave like a lead anchor to your job for the flimsiest of selfish reasons and a cheater. That was the flag. You just cannot trust him in any way and it’s only going to get worse. You need out of the entire workplace which is clearly conducive to wrongdoing. Lawyer up on every level.

  48. Dasein9*

    OP, I’m so sorry you’re going through this. Please do take the advice to lawyer up.

    Nobody can make guarantees about the future, of course, but many of us have experienced a great deal of freedom and relief after divorcing awful people. I suspect you have internal resources you haven’t even begun to tap yet, and hope that you join our ranks of the Living Happily Ever After very soon.

  49. Nonprofit Lifer*

    OK, this doesn’t always work, but if your conversation with the ED does not work, and you’re out of other options you can also try going to a sympathetic board member.

    Remember the ED isn’t technically the boss of a nonprofit, the board of directors is. Look for someone on the executive committee, preferably someone with their head enough in the real world that they’ll realize this for the massive cluster-cuss that it is, maybe someone from a functional company in the for-profit sector. Let them know about the situation and how your attempts to resolve it haven’t worked. Any board member worth a damn is going to realize what a giant can of worms this could be. And at the minimum, they’re going to now realize what a mess the ED has allowed to flourish.

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