In collaborative law divorce cases, my role is as a neutral financial advisor. I collect the financial information from both spouses and create a net worth statement (known as an inventory). The process of collecting the documents translates to homework for the clients. When the spouses have unequal financial knowledge, most often it is a situation where one spouse has controlled the money, the investments and the income while the other spouse has little or inaccurate understanding of the family financial situation, the income, the total spending, the investments and the savings level.
Monied spouse = the spouse who controls the money, investments, income. He/she has the bank statements, credit card statements, investment statements. He/she established or was given control over the finances early in the marriage for whatever the reasons.
Non-monied spouse = the spouse who has not participated in the family finances. She/he has not seen the statements and has signed but not read the tax return. Typically this spouse has not asked questions.
Note: In any partnership, there is a division of duties. Marriage is a partnership. Early in the marriage, couples divide the duties. I am not judging this arrangement, but I wish more Americans were financially literate.
So long as the monied spouse is doing the right thing, this can work well for a very long time. But, if this couple finds themselves in divorce, it creates some interesting aspects to the divorce process.
In the beginning of the case, when I start to gather financial information, the monied spouse is laden with all the financial homework. During a divorce, everyone is living under stress at home and at work. Piling this homework on top causes more stress and is time consuming for the monied spouse. One such spouse called this homework phase his “other job”.
The longer it takes the monied spouse to gather all the required documents, the longer the divorce will drag on. When this spouse is particularly eager to get to the end of the marriage, the irony is that his/her own inaction can be the cause of the delay.
This is the flip side of having control of the family finances.