Financial Arguments Are A Predictor Of Divorce, Study Confirms

Financial arguments are a predictor of divorce, according to Sonya Britt – an assistant professor of family studies and human services, and program director of personal financial planning at Kansas State University.

It’s likely many of you did not need a KSU researcher to tell you that.

Still, Britt’s study gives credence to one contentious area couples clash on – to the point where divorce becomes more and more of a tempting option when financial arguments become too much to bear.

Money management surpasses disputes over sex, children, and in-laws for both men and women based on her research – published in Family Relations, an interdisciplinary journal of applied family studies.

Notably, infidelity was not mentioned or considered in the research.

Using longitudinal data from the National Survey of Families and Households, Britt analyzed more than 4,500 couples in her study called, “Examining the Relationship Between Financial Issues and Divorce.”

Britt found – after considering controls for income, debt, and net worth – that regardless of economic status, financial arguments topped the predictor of divorce.

Financial arguments can be extremely intense and persistent. Therefore, they take longer than other kind of arguments to resolve and recover from, reports

Based on Britt’s opinion:

“You can measure people’s money arguments when they are very first married. It doesn’t matter how long ago it was, but when they were first together and already arguing about money, there is a good chance they are going to have poor relationship satisfaction.”

In short, decreased relationship satisfaction over money matters can negatively affect mood, sleep, sex, and increase stress – establishing a vicious circle – and in turn create a higher likelihood of divorce.

Even if divorce is not a possibility because of low income – because it is cheaper to get a marriage license and be wed at a court house than it is to file for basic no-fault divorce – the low relationship satisfaction can make matters worse. If either party feels they are being treated unfairly, relationship satisfaction is going to decrease, reports Science Daily.

Britt advises new couples to seek a financial planner – a local accredited financial counselor or go to The Association for Financial Counseling – as part of premarital counseling. For couples who are in the throes of current financial woes, Britt recommends finding a way to constructive talk through tough financial situations.

Spenders and savers alike will squabble over their respective views on finances. Fights can ensue as one person finds over time they may be paying more and more of the necessary expenses while the other contributes less and less to the needs and spending more on their personal wants.

Or the situation could be one where one spouse suddenly elects not to work, placing the full burden on the shoulders of the other.

People forget it is psychologically easier to spend money you don’t earn, e.g. spending your spouse’s hard earned dollars. Yet the moment the spouse voices frustration over the unbalanced spending, the other may react defensively and communication can shut down completely; erupting instead into bitter, emotion-fueled arguments where one or both feels taken for granted or entitled.

Sound familiar?

Spenders can fall into the trap of significant credit card debt and somehow rationalize to themselves that hiding the bills will solve the problem – until one day their spouse goes to put gas in their car and the card is declined. Ultimately, this pattern of hiding the problem makes the situation far worse.

Savers can become so rigid and controlling that they deem any extra purchase unacceptable, failing to realize that you can’t take it with you, and in life little luxuries must be enjoyed – otherwise why are you working so hard for it?

Some fail to consider the drawbacks of entangling finances. If your spouse defaults on a loan you signed off on and fails to make any effort to repay, you could be subjected to similar penalties and legal actions, such as garnishments and harassing phone calls from debt collectors.

In some situations you don’t necessarily have to sign off on the purchase yet you can be held responsible for the expense – such as if your spouse has student loans they never repaid and you both attempt to finance a home together.

Couples also fail to consider the tax ramifications of their union, assuming the credits will outweigh the penalties. However, that is not always the case in every situation. For example, if one party makes significantly less money than the other, and the primary breadwinner also holds the majority of major itemized deductions, is it fair for the other to assume they automatically get half of the tax return, even though the majority of the taxes paid were done so by the higher earner?

If expectations and roles are not outlined resentment can built quickly.

Before getting married, each individual should consider the implications of moving forward into a contractual obligation – as that is what marriage, when stripped of the romanticism and party, really is. Have a thorough discussion about what expectations you will have out of your partner.

Consider a prenuptial agreement to protect certain assets such as investment accounts and real estate purchased prior to marriage.

Regrettably, if you cannot come to equal terms and acquiesce to divorce, that in and of itself can be an expensive ordeal and create a whole new financial argument battle ground. Prior to seeking the guidance of attorneys, consider a fair and amicable division of assets. If possible, resolve intertwined debts and bank accounts beforehand.

Regarding children, try to coordinate visitation scheduling before you have to pay a lawyer to listen to the two of you bicker out the fine details.

Ideally, the only thing that should be battled out in mediation or court should be the areas where the parties cannot come to an accord and require the court to sort out the final details.

Emotionally stirring one another up unnecessarily, in an already difficult process, can prolong a divorce and cost more – leading to other types of financial arguments.

[Image via Shutterstock]

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