This article from The Vancouver Province and Canada.com suggests that increasing secrecy means ‘you are probably headed for a divorce.’

Financial cheating between couples might be a precursor to deeper problems and even divorce, says B.C. legal expert Lorne MacLean.

It’s not so much the one secret pair of shoes she couldn’t resist, or the high-tech thingy he had to have. It’s when hiding financial expenditures becomes a chronic problem.

"A pair of shoes — it’s probably not a big deal. The question is, ‘Are you doing it all the time?’ Then does it escalate?"

A survey of 1,184 Canadians by Ipsos Reid suggests about 20 per cent of respondents have been dishonest with their partners about spending habits.

The poll conducted for lawyers.com suggests that women are a tad more likely to fudge their finances (23 per cent versus 18 per cent for men) and less likely to share a bank account with their spouse (68 per cent versus 79 per cent for men).

MacLean, a partner at MacLean Family Law Group in Vancouver and consultant for lawyers.com, is no marriage counsellor. But he suggests that people who feel the need to be secret with their spouses have relationship weaknesses that should be addressed.

"If you find that the secrecy is increasing, whether you’re the person that’s hiding more and more stuff or you’re the person that’s discovering they’re hiding more and more stuff, if you don’t deal with it, then you are probably headed for a divorce. Because if there was no issue between the parties, no one would be hiding."

Large cash withdrawals are a big warning sign: If you start seeing $300 every other day, start to wonder, he says.

For couples just starting out, he advises a prenuptial agreement that includes a clause about discretionary spending.

"No one has to be secret unless they want to spend more than they gave notice they would spend."

And if the marriage already feels rocky, there are ways to protect your share of family assets.

Steps listed at www.bcfamily law.ca include:

– Review and photocopy return addresses and senders of mail coming into the home from stockbrokers, insurance companies, credit issuers, banks and so on.

– Review all joint statements and photocopy.

– Review all tax returns, and question anything unusual before signing.

– Consider having your mail sent to a post-office box or home of a trusted person.

– Make an inventory of and photograph contents of safety-deposit boxes and ensure they are in joint names.

– Obtain copies of any wills or trust agreements.

– Avoid signing any blank financial statements.

– Check joint bank accounts for large debits or withdrawals.

If the breakdown of the relationship has led to divorce, there are changes appearing as far as inheritances made out to only one party, MacLean says.

Large inheritances or gifts might be exempt from equal division of assets in the event of divorce if neither principal nor interest have ever been used for family expenses or been discussed as a retirement nest egg or for future family benefits, he says.

"Other than that, pretty well everything is going to be divided."

MacLean advises clients having any trouble in the marriage to keep inheritances and gifts from parents or others separate.

If the wife stays at home and the husband saves a million dollars from his job, the law presumes their efforts were equal.

"However, if something drops in someone’s lap through a lottery, or a trust or an inheritance, it doesn’t have that component of the parties working together, whether the division of labour is different or not. Those are the ones that maybe aren’t shared."

SOURCE: The Vancouver Province