Know Your Family Finances!—Avoiding A Divorce (PROBLEMS)


Knowing about finances as a united couple can save you from headaches—even possible DIVORCE!

While there are many reasons why people divorce, two key factors in causing marriages to fail are lack of communication and money. Surprisingly, a recent study found that, even though 72% of married couples believed that they communicated well, and an even higher percentage believed they could talk to their spouse about money—43% didn’t know how much money their partners really made, and over 1/3 disagreed on a number of important financial issues.

As a divorce lawyer, I can’t say I’m all that surprised. It is not uncommon for clients (usually women) to sit in my office and have little, if any, idea about how much their spouses earn. How much money the couple spends, or how much they have set aside for retirement. No wonder they are facing divorce!

Understanding Your Finances is Important for a Healthy Marriage

Having a working knowledge of your finances is not just important if you happen to be getting divorced. It is mission critical for those who hope to avoid divorce and stay reasonably happily married. Why? The answer lies in one word: Responsibility.

You are responsible for your own financial security. Just because you say "I do" doesn’t instantly make your spouse solely responsible for supporting you, nor does it make you solely responsible for supporting him. You are each still responsible for supporting yourself ... and for supporting each other. 

"Supporting yourself" doesn’t necessarily mean, though—that both you and your spouse have to work outside of the home. Your "support" may come in raising the kids and taking care of your home. Even so, both of you should know what your household income is, and how much money you can spend each month without causing your budget to explode like a cheap car in an action movie. 

If you allow your spouse to completely control the family finances without even letting you know what they are, you are not only putting yourself at a huge disadvantage if you divorce, but you are putting unnecessary pressure on your marriage that could easily lead to divorce.  

Husbands whose wives pay no attention to money can easily start to feel that all they are to their wives is a paycheck. They resent having to work so hard when, in their view, all their wives do is spend money. (Not that that’s true, of course, but we’re talking about feelings here.)

It’s a quick jump from feeling used, to building resentment. If left unchecked, resentment soon turns to contempt, and your marriage starts sliding downhill. That is definitely NOT where you want to go.

What if Your Spouse Doesn’t Want You To Know Your Finances?

If your spouse is a control freak, and insists on managing all of the money himself, you may think that not rocking the boat about money is the way to keep your marriage afloat. Maybe, for awhile, it is. Maybe. But, have you talked about it? You may be surprised at what happens if you do.

There is a difference between knowledge and control. You may be perfectly fine (actually ecstatic!) about the fact that your spouse wants to pay the family bills and leave you out of it. But, just because he may be in charge, that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t know what’s going on. 

If your spouse truly has a problem with sharing information about money, and he won’t talk about it with you—then it’s time to look at what is going on in your marriage at a deeper level. How much of a marriage do you really have?  Are you both equal partners in a joint venture? Or are you two free agents who just happen to be living together? As long as you’re good with the answer to that question, you’re ok. But if you’re not ....

The truth is, both you and your spouse are responsible for communicating with each other as much as you are responsible for creating a financially sound union. If one of you isn’t willing to talk about money, or come clean with finances, sooner or later the other is going to feel like a child. What’s more, the trust in your marriage will inevitably erode.

The bottom line is this: if you want to maintain a healthy marriage, both you and your spouse have to know what’s going on with the family finances, and be willing to talk to each other about money. While doing that won’t guarantee that you will live happily ever after, at least it will help make sure that two of the most common causes of divorce—lack of communication and money—don’t bring down your marriage.

Karen Covy is a divorce lawyer and life advisor in Chicago, Illinois. Go to www.karencovy.com to get more information about divorce, finances, and more.