What is financial infidelity, and why can it lead to divorce?

Married couples share many elements of their lives with one another, including their finances. People generally trust their spouses to be honest and to act in ways that benefit the family as a whole. Unfortunately, not everyone lives up to the trust that their spouse places in them.

Some people are unfaithful and begin romantic or sexual relationships with someone other than their spouses in secret during their marriages. Other people begin lying to their spouses about finances or may have misrepresented their circumstances from the start of the relationship. Some spouses eventually reach the uncomfortable realization that they have married someone who engages in financial infidelity.

What is financial infidelity?

At its most basic, financial infidelity is simply the practice of intentionally misrepresenting one’s finances to a spouse. Financial infidelity could involve under-reporting income, possibly by moving a little bit of each paycheck into a secret account.

Financial infidelity could also entail opening secret credit cards so that one spouse isn’t aware of the other’s shopping habits. Spousal financial infidelity usually involves misrepresenting one’s resources or hiding debts from a spouse. People may only uncover financial infidelity when marital circumstances deteriorate. It might even be the right of financial discovery during divorce proceedings that uncovers someone’s hidden debts or secret bank accounts.

How financial infidelity affects divorce

For some couples, the discovery of financial infidelity is the underlying cause of a divorce filing. For those divorcing someone who has been dishonest about finances, there are numerous concerns to address. Financial infidelity is more likely to be an issue for those in high-asset marriages preparing for complex divorces. People have to consider whether there could be additional hidden assets and what impact those resources might have on property division proceedings.

A spouse not informed about their partner’s shopping habits or credit card balances might potentially seek to exclude certain financial obligations from the marital estate during a divorce. If people want financial misconduct to influence the property division process, then they typically need concrete evidence to present to the courts or their spouse’s acknowledgment of their misconduct during negotiations.

Understanding the unusual marital challenges that can complicate certain high-asset divorces can be beneficial for those preparing for the end of a marriage. Those who gather proof of financial infidelity can push more effectively for a reasonable property division outcome.