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What role does money really play in divorce?

It is not a secret that money stress is often at the top of any list of reasons for the demise of marriages. Many unhappy couples believe they could overcome their marital woes if they just had more money. You may be among those spouses who would agree with this.

However, it may interest you to know that it is not always the lack of money that causes the stress. In fact, a new survey shows that couples with substantial wealth may be more likely to divorce than those who eke out a living.

What is the real conflict?

Marriage counselors often find that a couple's relationship with each other parallels their relationship with money. It is not always the strain of not having enough money that causes discord between spouses, but more often, it is a disparity in the couple's basic philosophies regarding money. If you and your spouse have difficulty coming to terms over how you will spend, save and borrow money, your marriage may suffer, even if you have a six-figure income.

The financial conflicts you may be facing in your marriage may relate to these common situations:

  • Your spouse earns considerably more money than you (or the other way around) and feels that grants him or her the authority to make all the financial decisions.
  • One of you has a high-paying job that requires you to travel away from home for long periods.
  • Your family has significant income but nothing to show for it in the way of savings or retirement planning.
  • You would have sufficient income if you did not have overwhelming debt.
  • You and your spouse have vastly different credit scores.

In fact, a disparity in credit scores at the beginning of a marriage is often a great predictor of divorce, according to some analysts. One study by the Federal Reserve Board shows that couples, where one spouse has a credit rating exceedingly lower than the other, tend to separate before they reach their fifth anniversary.

Communication is the key

For many spouses, the inability to communicate honestly and productively about their money issues is more often the trigger for conflict than the inability to earn enough money. If this is your case, you may find that drafting a prenuptial or postnuptial agreement can open those doors of communication. On the other hand, if the stress of your money conflicts has reached the point where the differences are irreconcilable, you may wish to seek more information about your options for divorce by consulting a family law attorney.