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Is Your Husband Being Financially Unfaithful?

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Does your husband keep a separate safe deposit box? Do the family's financial statements get mailed to his office address? Is he an ATM junkie? If so, there's a chance your husband could be stepping out on you with the family money.

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Dr. Wendy Walsh: It's one thing to fear that your husband might stray with his heart and/or his body, but what most women don't realize is that the risk of financial infidelity is far more dangerous -- and could lead to longer-term consequences for women and their children.

"Most divorces are not impulsive decisions," says Stacey Napp, the CEO of Balance Point Funding, an investment firm that invests in women who have become financially disabled during a divorce proceeding. "One party or another checks out emotionally three to five years before they file for divorceLong before a man leaves, he begins to squirrel away assets so that he'll hold the power in divorce court." 

The behavior is more common among affluent husbands, because as a family's net worth rises, couples tend to move into traditional gender roles -- with the woman working less and handling more child-rearing and household-management chores. And if divorce happens, these women are left unprotected. Since it is illegal in most states for a family attorney to work on a contingency (taking a percentage of the final settlement), the exit game becomes one where divorcing husbands strive to leave their wives with no assets to hire a good divorce lawyer -- who may demand as much as $20,000 on the first visit.

"Divorce isn't pretty, but it doesn't have to be dirty," says Napp, who founded her company after her own divorce -- and the financial infidelity she experienced that nearly cost her her entire lifestyle. 

According to Napp, there are six red flags that women should be on the lookout for:

1. Your bank, brokerage or financial statements are sent to your husband's office -- not to your house.

2. You're not the beneficiary of your husband's life-insurance policy.

3. The same amount of money is being withdrawn from your joint account every month like clockwork.

4. Your husband has a separate safe deposit box.

5. He makes significant -- and repeated -- cash withdrawals on your joint credit cards.

6. He owns his own business and has his family members as employees and/or partners in that business. (Note: This by itself isn't a red flag, but if any of the above are also present in your situation, watch out!)

If you do suspect trouble, is there anything you can do to stop the cash leakage?

Yes, says Napp: Act like your own forensic accountant and gather evidence before your husband hides it. That may mean photocopying every document he ever brings home -- including his entire wallet and briefcase. Since people stay in contact with their money, photocopy all cell-phone records, check frequent-flyer miles, even check the home telephone bill. 

Ever the financial sleuth, Napp says that calling fast-food delivery restaurants in areas where phone calls have been made can reveal what address goes with what number. Also, wives should always request a once-yearly free credit report from all three credit-reporting bureaus (Experian, Equifax and TransUnion). Your free credit report could contain information about financial institutions that your husband may have established relationships with -- and that you were heretofore unaware of. It would also show any aliases and/or alternate social-security numbers being used by your spouse.

Along with the enormous emotional pain that women experience during divorce, financial unfaithfulness adds another layer of injury -- injury that can have tragic consequences for children (who might be yanked from school after losing their tuition) and wives (who may lose their home and community support-system). Napp suggests that women who are full-time mothers are especially vulnerable to this kind of infidelity.

20 comments so far | Post a comment now
Black Iris March 10, 2010, 4:54 AM

I handle the bills and accounts in our family. I strongly recommend it.
Of course, we don’t have enough money for him to spend it. :-)

Pete March 10, 2010, 7:35 AM

Men have no choice but to go this route. Judges will eventually give everything to the woman, so it’s better to plan ahead and build up some saving for that day.

momofthree928 March 10, 2010, 3:25 PM

I wonder how widespread this problem is. We have enough challenges when it comes to money; I’m grateful not to have to deal with this. For women who do have these concerns — listen to your gut. You probably have reason to be concerned!

K March 10, 2010, 8:35 PM

Funny, that this site often has this article from the opposite perspective, and encourages women to do just that .. sock away money in case of a divorce!

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