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Holding spouses accountable for financial infidelity during divorce

On Behalf of | Feb 12, 2024 | Family Law

Discussions about infidelity during marriage often focus on physical and emotional infidelity. A physical affair involves becoming intimate with someone other than a person’s spouse. Emotional affairs involve them bonding with another person instead of their spouse.

Financial infidelity does not necessarily involve another party the way that emotional and physical infidelity do. Instead, financial infidelity involves someone lying about their economic circumstances to their spouse. For example, someone who does not disclose their debts before getting married has engaged in financial infidelity. So has someone who hid some of their income from their spouse during the course of their union.

How can one spouse hold another accountable for financial infidelity during divorce?

With proper financial records

Sometimes, the discovery of hidden bank accounts or secret credit cards could be what prompts one spouse to file for divorce. Other times, a pattern of financial infidelity may only come to light after one spouse files for divorce and begins reviewing financial records.

There could be a significant discrepancy between what someone earned each week and what they deposited into the shared marital checking account, for example. This could be an indicator that someone has a hidden bank account. Their spouse might try to include debts that they accrued through irresponsible financial conduct as part of the marital estate. They likely hope that their spouse ends up paying for some of those debts.

However, the courts can consider financial misconduct when dividing marital property and debts as part of a divorce. If one spouse lied about their shopping habits, hid debts or intentionally denied the other access to marital income, those questionable behaviors could affect how the courts eventually divide their marital property.

Undisclosed debts might get excluded from the marital estate and remain the sole responsibility of the spouse who took them on without disclosing them. Someone who hid assets from their spouse, particularly if they also misrepresented their personal holdings to the courts, might receive less of the marital estate as punishment for that misconduct.

Typically, those seeking to hold a spouse accountable for financial infidelity first need to gather verifiable records of that misconduct. From there, they can potentially leverage that evidence during negotiations or present it to the courts as part of a litigated divorce. Ultimately, understanding what constitutes financial infidelity may inspire some people to hold their spouses accountable for unethical behavior.