Financial Cheating: 3 Tips to Protect Your Relationship (and Your Wallet)

Financial cheating doesn’t involve private meet ups or flirty texts, but it is still a significant form of deception – and it entails secrets and falsehoods that can destroy a relationship.

By Janet McCullar and Jake Gilbreath
July 14, 2016

Financial Cheating: Destructive Secrets and Falsehoods

Financial Cheating

When most people think of cheating, physical and emotional affairs are what come to mind first. However, divorce attorneys Janet McCullar and Jake Gilbreath claim that financial cheating is an overlooked type of infidelity that happens more often that most people expect.

Financial cheating doesn’t involve private meet ups or flirty texts, but it is still a significant form of deception – it entails secrets and falsehoods that can destroy a relationship. "There are many different kinds of financial cheating," says McCullar. "Whether one spouse lies about the price of a pair of shoes, or the other spouse keeps the Christmas bonus secret, financial cheating certainly happens."

An obvious example of financial cheating is when one spouse spends money on a person they’re having an affair with. Petty expenses such as flowers or dinner will not hold up in court, but extravagant purchases such as big vacations, new cars and paying rent or credit card bills will definitely raise a red flag. A couples’ funds become joint once they’re married. If one spouse is using those funds to pay for an affair, then the injured spouse can recapture that spent money in court, in addition to half of the couple’s remaining assets.

Other forms of financial cheating aren’t as glaring as monetary expenses spent on an affair, but they are still considered a form of infidelity because they involve one spouse being less open or forthcoming. One example is hidden money. Surprising numbers of partners hide bank accounts from their spouses. Another example of financial deception is when one spouse isn’t transparent about the value of his or her assets and liabilities. Both forms are considered cheating, and both could wind up in a divorce case. It is important for both partners to be fully aware of their spouse’s assets, liabilities, and other expenses in order to claim money that is rightfully theirs in a divorce settlement.

Below are three tips from McCullar and Gilbreath that will improve financial communication between spouses – and could help to prevent financial cheating in your relationship.

1. There is a time and place to have individual and separate bank accounts.

Individual bank accounts can lead to secrets, turmoil and overall a lack of trust between partners. However, for those who marry later in life and have a large amount of financial independence – or for those who may have a large inheritance – seeing if your spouse is open to maintaining separate as well as joint bank accounts may be worth exploring. This way, each partner can keep a level of financial responsibility and neither person could end up losing half of what would otherwise be separate property during a divorce. The bottom line is that maintaining separate accounts needs to be a decision partners make together and agree upon to avoid deception.

2. Set aside a time each month to discuss spending and finances.

This will force couples to be open with each other about all of their purchases and paychecks.

3. Make a list of financial liabilities and assets, find common ground, and establish goals.

If a couple has shared goals, then they will work together and hold each other accountable to reach these goals. “If couples are more open and upfront with their finances from the get-go, then less time will be spent in the courtroom in the case of a divorce, ultimately saving each spouse money,” says Gilbreath.


Partners at the Austin, Texas firm McCullar and Gilbreath, Janet McCullar is a nationally-respected trial attorney known for her skill and success in the courtroom and Jake Gilbreath practices exclusively in the area of family law.

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July 14, 2016

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