Family finances shouldn’t be a secret

Mindelle Jacobs of the Edmonton Sun, on the importance of sharing financial information:

Marie got the shock of her life at a routine mortgage renewal meeting, when her husband told the bank manager he’d racked up $22,000 in credit card debt.

“I had no idea,” recalls Marie (not her real name). “I would never have guessed it was that much. My blood pressure went up.”

That one spouse would hide extravagant spending habits from another is no surprise to family lawyers. Arguments over money are probably the biggest stressors on relationships.

When a saver marries a spender or when there’s no reasonable compromise on money management, the consequences can be dire – insistent creditors, bankruptcy or divorce proceedings.

“In my experience, it’s probably more common than not that a spouse doesn’t know every financial detail (about the other spouse),” says Marla Miller, an Edmonton registered family mediator and collaborative family lawyer. “It’s very rare that both spouses . know absolutely everything.”

Grant Gold, head of the family law section of the Canadian Bar Association, agrees. “It happens more often than you would think – that people run separate financial lives.”

The Toronto lawyer says he recently settled a divorce case in which the biggest stumbling block was that the husband didn’t know that his wife had accumulated $60,000 in debts.

“It’s relatively common. It speaks to problems in the marriage. And it speaks to the need for couples to communicate in advance about things like that,” says Gold.

Via @MarlaGilsig.

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