Shhhh… Are you a Fiscal Cheater? – Financial Infidelity
Are you cheating on your spouse, financially? If you were to get a divorce or lose your spouse, would you have a grasp on your family finances or is your spouse keeping financial secrets?
- The action or state of being unfaithful to a spouse
- A violation of a couple’s assumed or stated contract.
In order to commit financial infidelity, there must be a violation of an assumed or stated contract. Money is never an easy topic to discuss, but money issues are a very common strain on a marriage. If you want your marriage to thrive, it’s important to have open communication about your finances. As family law attorneys, we think about you planning ahead in the event that your marriage ends in divorce. It’s important to know what’s going on with your family finances before you end up in our office.
Before you got married, did you discuss how you each spend? What secrets were behind your credit score? How much debt you were bringing into the relationship? What motivates you – are you a spender or a saver? Are you on the same page or financial opposites? Did you sit down with lawyers and prepare a premarital agreement that laid out your financial plan? Before or after you signed the marriage contract, did your discuss and decide on your financial plan? If you don’t have a stated contract for your financial plan, then you may each have a different assumed financial contract.
If you or your spouse is hiding your money transactions from the other, then you may be committing financial infidelity. On the other hand, if you and your spouse have an agreement to maintain separate accounts for spending as your heart desires without judgment, (a.k.a. “mad money” accounts), then you may be in the clear.
If you suspect your spouse is having a financial affair, you may recognize some of the same behaviors as a spouse having a romantic affair: they become noticeably withdrawn or easily agitated; their spending habits suddenly change; there is a sudden change in behavior about their email privacy.
Some “Red Flags” become quite obvious before you ever get up the nerve to confront your spouse: you discover hidden debt, secret expenditures, or secret accounts. You may discover that your partner is lying about paying the bills. Or you catch your spouse lying to someone else about their purchases: where they bought it or how much they spent.
What Happens Next?
Like romantic infidelity, a strong marriage requires rebuilding communication and trust. So, have a conversation. Seek marital counseling. Get financial counseling.
Self-Preservation and Divorce. Get a good grasp on your family’s financial situation. If you are unable to recover from fiscal infidelity, you will be in a better position in your divorce if you are already aware of how much you have in your checking and savings accounts, what retirement accounts you have, and whether you are living within your means. It’s important to understand that the cost of a divorce can increase significantly if your attorney needs to conduct extensive “discovery” work to investigate, obtain, review and analyze financial documents. Sometimes this means hiring a private investigator to hunt down accounts of which you weren’t aware. If you have done the legwork and know what your finances are, what documents you need and where to look for them, you can save a lot in legal fees and make sure you get a fair settlement.