How Can Money Problems in a Marriage Lead to Divorce

With the current economy, more couples than ever are having money problems in their marriage.  Unemployment is rampant, costs are high and credit card interest rates are exorbitant.  There just is not enough money to go around.  What are the common money problems in relationships and how do you fix them?  How do these same money problems lead to a divorce?

1.  Different views on money.  This is one of the most common money problems in marriage.  Some people are spenders and some people are savers.  Neither spouse is necessarily right or wrong.  However, maintaining a balance which is comfortable for both is essential.  Compromise and negotiation is the key from keeping this particular problem from getting out of control.

2.  Secrets.  I heard a topic on the radio the other day – “Are you cheating on your spouse with money?”  This seemed an appropriate title.  Money secrets can be about two different things – either a secret bank account or secret credit cards.  I have seen both but, usually, it is credit cards.  This ties in with the above topic.  If someone is a spender and the other person is a saver, sometimes the only way the spender can spend is through credit cards.  Spending is also a common symptom of depression.  And, because it is difficult to siphon off enough money from the joint checking account to pay the credit card bills, they quickly can get out of control.  The person incurring them then starts to take cash advances to pay the credit card bills, which only compounds the problem.

Obviously, the way to resolve this problem is to stop spending.  But, this is not easy.  Eventually, you have to come clean with your spouse.  He or she will be angry and feel lied to and betrayed.  But, if you don’t, you will eventually have a situation which has no resolution.  Divorce or bankruptcy may follow.  You need to figure out how you got into this situation and address not only the immediate problem of paying the debt (together), but the underlying issue which cause the problem in the first place.

3.  Loss or lack of employment.  Unfortunately, this is now a common problem.  We see a loss of employment over and over in our cases.  The issue is not necessarily about the financial stress of a job loss, it is about the efforts and willingness to find a new job.  Depression often follows a job loss which interferes with efforts to find new employment.  Or, spouses have different opinions about whether one of them should continue to stay home with the children – especially when the children get older.  We have seen many situations where a stay-at-home mother does not want to return to work even when the children are in high school or college.  The financial stresses this situation can create a one-sided partnership to the detriment of the marriage.  The way to resolve this situation is to figure out what is causing the non-working spouse to drag their feet getting back into the job market – is it depression or fear of the unknown?  Is it an unwillingness to change, which many people experience?  Individual or vocational counseling can assist in resolving this problem.

In a divorce, this situation can lead to arguments about how much money someone can or should be earning.  This can affect support issues, particularly maintenance (alimony).

4.  Financial stress in general.  The majority of people, much less married couples, do not have enough money to go around.  Budgets are always tight and people live paycheck to paycheck.  Stress of any kind can be hard on a relationship but money problems are especially rough because there is not always an easy solution.   The key is to work on the solution together.  Maybe it is a second job or maybe it is putting off that vacation.  Whatever you decide, you both can feel good about the process and working together can cement your relationship as you both work towards a common goal.

The way to deal with money problems in marriage is to remember that you are in this together.  Marriage is a partnership and you need to work together to solve your problems.  If you both are on the same page and are open with one another about financial issues, you are on the right path to avoiding one of the most common, and serious, problems in relationships.

If you don’t resolve these issues, they can lead to divorce and are only amplified in that process.  It is very common to have issues in a divorce relating to unknown credit cards, bad spending habits, underemployment and arguing about earning capacities for purposes of support and maintenance.  For further information about how these issues are handled or addressed in divorce, please see our other blog topics, our website at Nelson, Krueger & Millenbach, LLC  or contact us at 414-258-1644 to schedule a free initial consultation.

We welcome your comments or questions. We will do our best to try to respond. However, please be advised that we cannot give legal advice in this forum and all communications are for general informational purposes only. Communication should not be construed as forming an attorney-client relationship. This is an open forum and any information you provide may be posted and will not be held confidentially. By posting a comment or question, you are expressly giving consent for the publication of same. If you have any specific legal issues or concerns, we always recommend that you consult with an attorney in the county and state in which you reside.

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