Financial Problems & Divorce

by Beverly Bird
Almost three out of four couples discuss money on a weekly basis.

Almost three out of four couples discuss money on a weekly basis.

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Financial problems have traditionally taken a bum rap for causing divorce, according to Liz Pulliam Weston for MSN Money. This is not to say that they don’t contribute, but they usually don’t break up a marriage by themselves. Instead, the stress of not being able to make ends meet might magnify other problems and make them worse.

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Existing Habits

As of 2008, men waited until the median age of 28 to marry for the first time, according to a report in “USA Today.” The age was slightly younger for women. Personal money habits can become firmly entrenched by these ages. If one spouse is conservative and the other is a more lavish spender, it might not cause a problem if they earn enough money between them to allow for both spending and saving. When money is tight, however, the saver might begin to resent the spender’s habits. “Smart Money” reports that spending is the second most common cause of marital arguing; debt is No. 1, with 37 percent of couples citing it as the cause of the fights.

Power Struggles

In many marriages, one spouse out-earns the other. The spouse who works hard for the majority of the money is naturally inclined to want to be the one to decide how to spend it. The spouse who must ask for permission to spend might come to resent that. If there are existing problems between partners, this tug-of-war can cause a fatal break in the marital relationship, especially if the higher wage-earner exerts excessive control over other issues as well.

Result of Problems

In many cases, divorce does not put an end to spouses’ joint money problems. If child support or alimony are issues, one spouse often finds himself in the position of having to write a check to the other each month anyway. After divorce, he has even less control over how his ex spends it than he did before. Additionally, a divorce decree is not usually binding on creditors. If a couple signs for joint accounts during their marriage, the lender generally has the right to pursue either one of them for payment, regardless of which spouse is assigned to pay an account in the divorce decree. The frugal spouse might still find himself on the hook post-divorce for charges the spender ran up, if the spender doesn’t pay the joint debts assigned to her.

Preventive Measures

To alleviate the impact of finances on a marriage, “Smart Money” suggests the simple remedy of writing a prenuptial agreement to address premarital debt and how you’re going to handle charges made by the other during the marriage. If you iron out financial issues ahead of time and decide who is responsible for what, it may lessen the likelihood of one partner becoming resentful or controlling marital income with an iron fist. If your relationship isn’t strong enough to handle the negotiation of a prenup, it may not be strong enough to handle financial pressure after marriage, either. If you’re already married, you can still write a postnuptial agreement to address these issues and establish rules and guidelines that might help you avoid fights.