Do you keep any secrets from your spouse? If so, you’re not alone. Whether it’s to avoid an argument or to spare someone’s feelings, we all tell a fib or lie by omission from time to time. But is it ok to lie about something as important as money? Most people would say no, but the practice is more common than you might expect.

According to a recent poll of 2,000 married or partnered adults in the U.S., about 37 percent of respondents said they keep a private stash of money that their significant other doesn’t know about. And the amount may surprise you. On average, the amount of money kept hidden away was just over $2,000.

The reasons for these money secrets are easy to guess. According to the poll, here are the top three topics that respondents argue about with their partners:

  • 31 percent argued due to concerns about debt
  • 30 percent were drawn into arguments that they spend too much money
  • 23 percent believe that their partner spends too much money

There are several takeaways from this survey that are relevant to family law. First is the idea that money disagreements are a major contributing factor in divorce. Most of us have at least some unhealthy attitudes about money or unhealthy spending habits. We may manage fine on our own, but when partnered with someone who has different problems with money, it can be a real source of tension and conflict.

Second, this is relevant because assets, spending and debt will all be carefully examined as part of the divorce process. The egregious financial behaviors of one spouse could influence the ultimate property settlement. Examples include:

  • Excessive debt incurred by one spouse may not be split evenly if the other spouse had no knowledge or control of the first spouse’s behaviors
  • Sometimes, in contentious divorces, one spouse will go on a spree of “revenge spending” to either deplete the couple’s assets or ruin their spouse’s credit score
  • In some divorces, particularly in high-asset splits, one spouse will try to conceal assets to keep them from being cataloged and divided

In all of the examples above, judges often carefully weigh these factors when determining, approving or rejecting a property settlement. And most judges do not look kindly on malfeasance when it comes to shared assets and finances.

If you are about to go through a divorce and a spouse’s financial behavior has historically been a problem throughout your marriage, please discuss your concerns with your attorney early in the process.