How to Protect Yourself Financially If Your Partner Cheats
July 15, 2016
Don't have a prenup? It's not too late.
What’s the biggest issue for partners? Staying 100 percent faithful.
When I think about infidelity’s impact on a marriage, my first reaction is: Where is the prenup? Unfortunately, most people don't get a prenup because they are afraid to talk about money or their financial expectations (and they live in a fantasyland and believe divorce will never knock on their door). Ah-ha: Herein lies the problem.
Marriage dissolution caused by infidelity is a very complicated issue, a tangled knot of age, assets, earning power, children, gender bias, abuse, shame, self-esteem. It is easier to circumnavigate a pileup on the Jersey Turnpike in whiteout conditions than sort out infidelity’s emotions and consequences … not to mention the serious anger that can surface when your partner has been unfaithful.
Betrayal brings out one’s true character. Will that person seek revenge? Will the betrayed party use the children as pawns or confuse the children’s best interests with their own anger? Will the partner with "the money" hold it hostage in order to get their needs met and abuse the injured party?
Sometimes, as we have witnessed in the public sphere, money isn’t the real issue; it's power. Some couples are legally married but it's a business, not a marriage based on devotion, trust, and fidelity. In these cases, it’s beneficial for both parties’ agendas to stay together versus the better choice: ending the union. When Bill Clinton was unfaithful to Hillary, do you think they discussed the possibility of divorce, and decided it would be too big of a mess to untangle? Whether you’re a politician or an average Joe, money—and children and pets—can be used as leverage.
The injured party feels powerless, understandably, even if the desire to reconcile is remote or nonexistent. Research pegs the divorce rate at 50 percent and shows that women suffer more financially than men after the divorce. A man's lifestyle tends to remain intact, while a woman's lifestyle takes a drastic turn downward.
How does one manage this impending storm if there isn't a prenup? The injured party has some leverage in the final legal documents, for instance, refusing to sign a divorce decree, might place you in the position of power. A formal separation agreement sometimes is helpful, has no downside, and helps clear the financial waters and protect the injured party from being further responsible for ongoing and newly acquired debts.
Make sure, even now, you know and understand everything about your joint finances, including expenses and debts. The less you know, the more vulnerable you are. Keeping your own, private account may also provide some peace of mind. And, even if you currently do not have a prenup, you can always get one that covers the same issues and disclosures now.
If you haven’t had an honest talk about finances with your partner, it’s not too late: Having the money chat is healthy at any stage if you want to have some control and value intimacy.