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Fool for love, fool for money: When does failure to share info become financial infidelity?

Disagreements about money are of course a big factor in causing divorce. But it isn't only open disagreements that can undermine a marriage. Deceiving a spouse financially - sometimes called "financial infidelity" - can have corrosive consequences as well.

When does failure to share information with a spouse become so serious that it becomes financial information? And how common is this type of behavior? In this post, we will address these questions.

Money talk: often, it's more like money silence

Many couples don't share financial details with each other. That includes retirement account information.

One recent survey found that more than 1 in 5 couples (either married or cohabitating) don't know, even in general terms, how much the other partner has in retirement savings. A comparable percentage said they had not shared this information with their partner either.

Another survey found that more than 40 percent of people living together don't have a clear sense of how much the other partner earns.

Clearly talking about money is difficult for many couples. And it certainly doesn't get any easier when divorce arises.

When does failure to share information about money with a spouse become financial infidelity?

Being reluctant to talk about money with a spouse is understandable. Life is busy, and activities such as jobs and raising children making many demands on time and attention.

But when an intention to deceive a spouse enters the picture, reluctance to talk about money starts to shade into financial infidelity.

To be sure, it can be a good thing for spouses with joint accounts to each have a bit of "mad money" that isn't subject to scrutiny by the other spouse. But if there gets to be a pattern of squirreling money away somewhere, or spending it on undisclosed purposes, this is obviously a big concern.

This type of surreptitious spending could on an extramarital affair: infidelity in the classic sense. But financial infidelity also includes things like blowing through money due to an addiction or some other problem. It can also include hiding money away in a separate account that the other spouse doesn't know about.

How common is financial infidelity?

The Harris organization conducted a national poll this year to get a sense of how often financial deceit occurs in marriages. The results were that 42 percent of married people said they had deceived their partners about money matters.

Granted, sexual infidelity that involves financial deception of a marital partner is only a subset of this rather large figure. But when a lot of money is involved, or a spouse goes to great lengths to deceive, the marriage's days may be numbered.

Protecting yourself in the divorce process

If you are facing divorce and believe that your spouse has deceived you financially, it's important to understand your legal options. An experienced attorney can help you assert your rights and seek a solution that makes sense for you and your family.

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