Recently on our legal forum a wife asked, “I have been married for 15 years. Everything was fine until I had children and quit working. Now my spouse refuses to give me any money to spend unless I beg for it. Even then he requires a detailed explanation of how it was spent. Are there any legal steps I can take to get our money? I know I don’t work outside of the home, but I still contribute a great deal to this marriage.”
The story you tell is a common one for many married couples. Not only are finances one of the top issues for couples, many couples simply cannot decide how income should be distributed and who should have control.
There are also no federal or state laws which outline how money must be managed during marriage. For example, states do not require the spouse who makes more money to give money to the other spouse, to report their income to each other, or to merge their funds together in a joint bank account.
In fact, couples are free to determine how money should be managed and who has control of the money. This is great news for those couples who agree on how to spend money; for those who do not, however, this means there are few protections for the spouse who does not have access to the funds.
What do the laws say about a couple’s money?
Although there are few laws governing a couple’s money during the marriage, there are some laws. For example, if your spouse accumulates debts during the marriage it’s likely you will be equally responsible for the debt. There are also laws concerning certain types of retirement plans and employment benefits.
If a couple decides to file for divorce, however, state laws do determine how the property and assets are divided, which spouse will have to pay spousal support, and how much child support will be paid. You do not want to have to get a divorce to get the money you need to support yourself, but it is important that you get help to resolve your issues.
Am I married to a financial bully?
So are you married to a financial bully? Unfortunately, many wives or husbands do not recognize their in trouble until well into the marriage. There are signs, however, that your spouse has become overly controlling and you may need to seek expert marital advice.
For example, has your spouse taken away your credit cards, berated you for spending too much money, required you to give him your paycheck, refused to let you be involved in creating the family budget, or given you an allowance?
Any of these actions can be a red flag. According to Brad Klontz, financial psychologist and author of Mind Over Money, If somebody is just using money for control, it’s a huge red flag.”
If you are being bullied over money there are some steps you can take. It’s time to have an honest talk, discuss how your husband’s actions make you feel, have an open mind, and potentially meet with an expert for help.
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