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In the past few years, the term financial infidelity has gotten a lot of play in the media. This term refers to any form of dishonesty between partners in financial matters. This could range from lying to a spouse about how much a pair of shoes or golf clubs cost, squirreling cash away in a box for a rainy day or establishing secret bank accounts in another state.
I read about one study that suggested 1 in 20 American couples were engaging in some type of financial infidelity. But in my world of private investigation and divorce, this form of “cheating” is hardly a new or uncommon phenomenon.
Today I’d like to address something that is far more common and dangerous: financial ignorance within a marital relationship – when a partner knows nothing about the finances.
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This issue is prevalent in high-income areas like Orange County. (We have our corporate office in the heart of Newport Beach). There are countless women in Southern California and throughout the United States simply living in a bubble.
These women live in beautiful homes and drive expensive cars. They have a wallet full of credit cards, accounts at restaurants and clubs and never see a bill. They sign whatever tax forms or financial papers are put in front of them without reading them. They don’t know how much their husband makes or spends and don’t care because life is great.
Until the wheels come off.
I usually come in right about here, generally after a husband has been caught cheating and the wife has decided to file for divorce.
- a basic asset search,
- bank, savings and checking account searches, and,
- stocks, bonds and securities searches.
75% of these clients look at me like I’m from Pluto. They don’t have any idea what these terms mean. Even worse, they have zero knowledge of the financial affairs in their own household.
Meanwhile at home, it’s been no secret to the man that the wheels have started to come off the bus. By this time, he’s been able to dissipate and/or hide many of the assets – long before any divorce proceedings or financial investigations begin. Accordingly, it becomes more difficult for us to locate all the assets and get a true financial picture.
If married women knew where their household bank accounts were located and had an accurate financial understanding of their joint affairs, men would definitely not be so far ahead of them in matters of divorce.
My clients come from every income level, and financial ignorance is equally common in what I call “pots and pans” divorces – when there are very few assets to divide and there’s no wealth involved on either side.
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