Smith, Meier & Webb, LPA

Financial infidelity can lead to divorce and impact outcomes

Financial infidelity has been growing in popularity, and the prevalence of this behavior could be contributing to divorce rates throughout the country. Over 40% of Americans now admit to keeping financial secrets from their spouses.

In general, secrets and lies can lead to arguments and the breakdown of a marriage. While financial infidelity could contribute to the breakdown of your marriage, it could also affect your divorce outcome.

What is financial infidelity?

Financial infidelity involves withholding financial information, lying about financial matters or making financial decisions without consulting a significant other. Examples can include secret shopping sprees, secret credit cards, secret accounts, secret stashes of money or secret debts.

Typically, financial infidelity involves important financial decisions or large amounts of money. Minor financial secrets, like a surprise birthday gift for your spouse, are not usually considered financial infidelity.

How might financial infidelity impact divorce?

During divorce, an innocent spouse could be on the hook for the outcomes of financial infidelity, such as debt. Assets and debts that spouses accumulate together or individually during their marriage are considered marital property and must be divided during divorce. Often, marital property, including debt, is divided equally. However, a judge could also divide debt based on each spouse's income, on the owner of the account or on the person who incurred the debt.

Depending on the circumstances, financial infidelity could affect the way a judge divides marital property. Withholding financial information from a spouse may not be enough alone to affect the division of marital property, but financial infidelity often overlaps with financial misconduct. If a spouse commits financial misconduct, an Ohio court may divide marital assets in such a way that the division favors the spouse who was harmed.

Behaviors that could be considered financial misconduct, include:

  • Losing a significant amount of money to gambling
  • Purchasing drugs or other illegal substances
  • Using marital money to pay for gifts or entertainment for a lover
  • Not properly disclosing assets in divorce

If you or your spouse keep financial secrets, it does not necessarily mean that your marriage will end in divorce. However, financial secrets often cause financial and emotional damage to relationships, and repairing that damage can require time and dedication from both spouses.

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