If you suspect that your spouse has some financial secrets he or she isn't telling you, you're not alone -- and you may be right. A recent study found that just over 50 percent of people believe that their partner is fully honest with them about money issues. Over 60 percent of respondents admitted to hiding something about their finances from their partner.
This "financial infidelity" could involve anything from thousands of dollars in credit card debt that people are embarrassed to acknowledge to millions of dollars hidden in offshore accounts. Sadly, too many people have no idea that their spouse is keeping financial secrets until they're in the midst of divorce -- and sometimes not even then. Both parties are required to list all of their assets and debts. However, there are a myriad of ways to hide money. You may need to bring a forensic accountant onto your team to ensure that you're fully aware of your spouse's financial picture.
Some Telltale Clues
Financial experts say that there are often clues that your spouse has something to hide. For example, have credit card bills or financial statements stopped being sent to your home? Are you seeing unexplained withdrawals or deposits to your accounts?
Has your spouse suddenly changed his or her spending habits -- either splurging on expensive purchases or suddenly cutting back on expenditures? Sometimes, according to one financial professional, people who are trying to hide something will try to deflect from their activity by requiring their spouse to account for all of their spending.
How to Avoid Becoming a Victim
People can minimize their chances of becoming victims of financial infidelity by being upfront with their spouses about money from the beginning -- even before they marry. One of the many advantages of a prenuptial agreement is that it requires couples to lay out their individual assets and liabilities and talk about their financial expectations and goals for their marriage.
It can be easy to fall into the habit of letting your spouse manage the money and investments. However, you should always be aware of what money is coming and going from your accounts and what debts (including credit cards) have your name on them. You should never sign any documents, including joint tax returns, unless you fully understand them.
If you are contemplating divorce or believe your spouse is, it's essential to ensure that you haven't been the victim of financial infidelity -- even if it was simply a matter of poor communication. Your family law attorney can help you identify all assets and liabilities so that you can work toward a fair settlement.
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