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by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: My husband and I are divorcing after 16 years of marriage. We have many mutual friends, neighbors and church friends. I am moving out of the house and am wondering how to tell my neighbors "goodbye" without revealing the details of the divorce. I would like to explain to them that we can all remain friends, etc.

Would a simple, handwritten note be acceptable? Also, how should we inform the members of our church? -- SOON TO BE SINGLE IN ALABAMA

DEAR SOON TO BE SINGLE: Your idea of writing a short, handwritten note to your neighbors is a good one. Ideally, it should be signed by both of you. It will allow you to spread the news without being subjected to unwanted questions at this time. (Of course, once the news is out you can expect to be deluged with questions -- but they can always be deflected with, "We'd rather not discuss it.")

As to making the announcement to your fellow church members, the answer is simple: Just confide the news in three or four of them -- and the information is sure to spread faster than the flu.

DEAR ABBY: One of my sisters and I are at odds over our mother's life insurance policy. Mother died in 1976. My younger sister "Tina" was 13 at the time. Mother had requested that I take Tina in and raise her. I did, and used the insurance money to help support her. I was a single parent with two children of my own, and I needed that money to cover expenses. It was spent on her health insurance, medical costs, a car, college tuition, clothes, etc.

Abby, my other sister, "Marie," is angry at me for using the insurance money. Marie says that because I "took responsibility" for Tina, I should have paid for everything myself and saved the insurance money as an inheritance for Tina.

What do you think about how the insurance money was used? -- BIG SISTER

DEAR BIG SISTER: I think you did the right thing with the insurance money. You were honoring your mother's request. If Marie is truly concerned about Tina receiving an inheritance, she should stop second-guessing you and make her little sister a beneficiary of her own estate.

DEAR ABBY: I have been seeing a man off and on for a year -- more off than on. We are together now, and there are many problems. I have one child; he has two. Our kids fight like cats and dogs, and I am so frustrated. But that's not what this is about.

He has cheated on me and lied to me in the past, and I forgave him. He was recently fired from his job of 12 years for forging a time sheet. Then, a few days ago, he sneaked back into his old office and stole a bunch of things -- a camera, a printer and other computer items -- and sold them to an outlet for money. This is so wrong! What am I going to do now? -- IN LOVE WITH A LOUISIANA LOSER

DEAR IN LOVE: Now, for the sake of your child, you must distance yourself as far as possible from this potential felon. You may not have noticed, but you had not one positive thing to say about this man. That little voice telling you that "this is wrong" is your guardian angel trying to protect you. Pay attention!

Dear Abby is written by Pauline Phillips and daughter Jeanne Phillips.

Abby shares more than 100 of her favorite recipes in two booklets: "Abby's Favorite Recipes" and "More Favorite Recipes by Dear Abby." Send a business-size, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $10 (U.S. funds)

to: Dear Abby -- Cookbooklet Set, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Postage is included in price.)

4520 Main St., Kansas City, MO 64111; (816) 932-6600