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Financial infidelity and its toll on your marriage

Frank and frequent money discussions are often the saving grace of many marriages. Partners who can discuss their finances, debts and goals may be more likely to work together when problems arise and less likely to mistrust and blame each other for financial crises.

However, keeping money secrets from a spouse, known as financial infidelity, is apparently common in most marriages. While it may be natural to make a small purchase or treat yourself to lunch, marriage counselors say that making significant financial decisions without the knowledge or approval of your partner can be a sign of trouble in the marriage.

What to look for

You may have suspicions that your spouse has a secret. Maybe your partner becomes angry or emotional whenever you begin a conversation about finances or ask about a new purchase. You may notice that your spouse often has new clothes or shoes, or perhaps he or she comes home with a new electronic device you didn't think you could afford. When you ask about these things, you may feel your spouse is not being truthful.

Some other signs of financial infidelity may include the following:

  • Your spouse has a credit card you didn't know about.
  • Your spouse has removed your name from a joint account.
  • You notice frequent ATM withdrawals or missing cash.
  • Your spouse insists on getting the mail or has re-routed bills to work or a post office box.
  • Your spouse suddenly begins offering you gifts that seem too expensive for your budget.

It is possible that your partner is dealing with a gambling or spending addiction, or it could simply be a matter of control. In either case, financial infidelity may create a rift between you and your spouse that can be difficult to repair.

Paying the piper

If financial infidelity has irrevocably breached the trust between you and your spouse, you may have decided that divorce is your best option. In this case, you may be concerned about how your spouse's secret transactions will affect your share of property division. In addition, if your spouse has accumulated debt of which you are unaware, the court will likely consider the debt as part of the marital property, which means you will be partly responsible for paying it back.

In situations like this, you and your spouse may reach a more positive resolution through collaborative divorce or mediation rather than litigation in Tennessee family court. With the guidance of an attorney, you and your spouse may be able to amicably work through the issues of property division and debt responsibility with a more agreeable outcome than a court decision. Nevertheless, if your spouse is uncooperative or continues to hide assets from you, the help of a family law attorney will be invaluable.

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Mr. McKellar was voted by his peers as a “Top Attorney” by Knoxville’s CityView Magazine in its 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, and 2017 editions. In 2014, 2015, and 2016, Mr. McKellar was selected as a member of the “Top 100 Trial Lawyers” by the National Trial Lawyers.

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