Many of the people I meet with ask about how they can pay for a divorce and whether they can put money aside for a divorce fund?
There are many reasons why you may why you might want to hide money away not necessarily for divorce even if you are in a happy marriage. For some having a stash of cash:
- Gives you peace of mind that you have a cushion in case of an emergency. Maybe for a divorce maybe for some other reason like a tree falls on the roof.
- Maybe you want a fund so that you can make a purchase for a gift so you can surprise your spouse for their birthday.
My mother was married to my father for over 40 years before he passed away and she had a “secret fund.” It was a fund where some amount of her paycheck would be deposited into just in case. The Just in case could be anything from upgrading the house, to paying some bill off, or money to live on because my dad was in-between jobs.
The “secret fund” was not super-secret my dad would occasionally complain that my mom had her “secret fund” and all his paycheck was going into their joint account. Although now that I am looking back my dad sort of did the same think by putting so much of his paycheck towards a 401k and my mom would occasionally complain about that.
I have known more than one woman and read more than one article encouraging every woman to have a “just in case fund.” The articles I read were more focused on women who were married and were dependent on their husbands as “breadwinners.” However, does this advice still hold true in today’s world where more women are working and not as dependent on their husbands.
Generally, I recommend keeping a “secret cash fund” to the people I meet with. I believe it is appropriate and even necessary for many of people I meet. Sometimes my clients or potential client’s express concerns that it may cause more problems than it is worth with their spouses. These people are often not sure if their marriage is over. I recommend you consider the consequences before you start hiding away any money.
Another thing you can consider is how you frame what you are doing with your spouse. In my example above both my mother and father had a separate quasi secret account. My mom did not call it her divorce stash. It was her “just in case” fund. Many finance books when they are teaching their readers how save money encourage opening just such a bank account and having a small percentage of each pay check put away for “just in case” which is hopefully their retirement.
Take an Active Role in the Finances
Before we get into why you may want to consider start hiding away money, one thing you should do to protect yourself immediately is to learn and participate in your families’ finances. Often in families there is division of labor where one spouse oversees all the “money related decisions” such as:
- balancing the checkbook,
- paying bills, and
- investing money
Quite frequently we represent a spouse who has no idea about any of the finances. This generally means we are going to have do a lot of discovery to figure out the finances for their marriage. Something you can do to help yourself if you are a spouse who is not actively involved in the finances would be to start learning about them now and to get more involved.
If share a joint account with your spouse, you should:
- be aware of how it is being used
- Make sure you have access to statements either online or paper
Try and find out what other accounts are out there such as:
- Bank accounts
- Investment accounts
- Retirement accounts
You should learn how much your spouse earns including:
- stock options and
- other perks
These steps will help you have a better idea if you are getting your fair share if you end up having to divide assets due to a divorce. If you do not take steps to protect yourself, you can find that:
- you are at a disadvantage during a divorce and
- you divorce is more expensive because of the research your lawyer must do for you to find out about your marital finances
Spousal Starving During a Texas Divorce
One of the best reasons you should consider having a separate/secret account would be if you have no source of income outside of your spouse.
I have represented women with children in abusive relationships where their husbands control all the finances. They want to leave their husbands but they lack any support system. In cases such as these often the solutions are limited and sometimes involve:
- Moving into a shelter with their children and
- Struggling financially and hopefully getting orders in place for child support or spousal support
If something happens and you need to leave the marriage, or your spouse leaves you, would you have access to financial resources to allow you survive?
Possible options could include:
- Taking money out a joint account
- Borrowing the money from a friend or relative
What if your spouse cuts off your access to a joint account or your relative or friends cannot lend you the money? If that happens then you will be good think that you were prepared and had an account set aside for an emergency.
It is not uncommon during a Texas divorce or separation for a spouse to clean out a bank account or empty a safe with money or valuables in it. This practice is sometimes referred to as spousal starving.
More than once I have had someone tell me “my spouse would never do that to me,” I have had more than one spouse call me after meeting with me and tell me my spouse did just what you told me might happen.
Can’t I get Alimony?
If you are spouse who does not have any income, then there is a good chance a Judge qualify may give you some temporary spouse support during the divorce. Often, I am asked “if I can get support, from my spouse why do I need a separate account?”
The biggest reason is the divorce process can be slow and take time. I may meet with someone 3-9 months before they pull the trigger or their spouses pulls the trigger on a divorce. Many times, when I am meeting with them again they feel their situation is an emergency and that we should go into court on an emergency hearing to get them immediate relief.
Unfortunately, what a court considers an emergency is not necessarily that your spouse cleaned out bank account. You should be prepared that it may take 45-60 days to get in front of a judge for a hearing.
Keeping all this in mind while you may be entitled to alimony from your spouse, you will still need money to live on until support is put in place.
Keep Financial Records
There is nothing legally wrong with having a “secret account” while you are married. Married couples are not legally required:
- to have joint accounts or
- to disclose to any existing accounts to their spouse
However, that changes during a divorce in Texas. It is a good idea to make sure you have copies of bank statements so if those are requested during a divorce you will be able to provide them for your account.
For example, if your relative gave or loaned you money that you put in the account you would then be able to show where the money came from. If the money in the account was earned during the marriage, then Texas community property rules will still apply and it will be community property. However, if the money was a gift or inheritance you will want to be able to document it to show that it is separate property.
What should you do?
After reading my blog article you will see that my general recommendation is that you have such an account to protect yourself. However, you will need to make that decision for yourself on what is necessary to protect you and your children.
There are some advantages to having such an account including:
- it is secret
- you can control what you do with it, and
- you will have a safety net for emergencies
Some cons could include:
- being discovered by your spouse
- some people feel like they are being sneaky etc.
You will have decided if it is good idea for your situation. However, if you could be placed in a situation where you have no income by your spouse it is in your best interest to establish protection against such an event.
Your safety net could be a:
- Bank Account
- Credit Card or
- Some other financial contingency
If you want to know more about what you can do, CLICK the button below to get your FREE E-book: “16 Steps to Help You Plan & Prepare for Your Texas Divorce”
Other Articles you may be interested in:
- How Can I Get My Spouse to Pay My Attorney's Fees in a Texas Divorce?
- How am I going to Pay for My Texas Divorce?
- Why do divorces cost so much in Texas?
- 6 Tips - On How to prepare for a Texas Divorce
- Roadmap of Basic Divorce Procedure in Texas
- Child Custody Basics in Texas
- 6 Mistakes that can Destroy Your Texas Divorce Case
- 10 Quick Tips About Parental Visitation
- Does it Matter who Files First in a Texas Divorce?
Law Office of Bryan Fagan | Houston, Texas Divorce Lawyers
The Law Office of Bryan Fagan routinely handles matters that affect children and families. If you have questions regarding divorce, it's important to speak with one of our Houston, TX Divorce Lawyers right away to protect your rights.
Our divorce lawyers in Houston TX are skilled at listening to your goals during this trying process and developing a strategy to meet those goals. Contact Law Office of Bryan Fagan by calling (281) 810-9760 or submit your contact information in our online form. The Law Office of Bryan Fagan handles Divorce cases in Houston, Texas, Cypress, Klein, Humble, Kingwood, Tomball, The Woodlands, the FM 1960 area, or surrounding areas, including Harris County, Montgomery County, Liberty County, Chambers County, Galveston County, Brazoria County, Fort Bend County and Waller County.