What to do to protect your finances when your spouse has a gambling problem
For many people, gambling isn’t just a one-time lottery purchase on their 18th birthday or a game of blackjack at a bachelorette party in Las Vegas. Gambling, for some, becomes an addictive activity that depletes their bank accounts and ruins their marriage.
Even if your spouse doesn’t play every day and can afford to lose big at the roulette table, he may have a problem. Some of the telltale signs of gambling addiction include:
- The inability to reduce or stop gambling.
- Place a bigger and bigger bet.
- Feel the need to continue playing after losing.
- Lying to cover up the extent of their gambling problem.
Susie’s unhappy story
Pathological gamblers don’t make good partners. Typically, spouses pay the price for their partner’s gambling habit. This was the case with our client, “Susie”. Susie’s turning point came three years after asking her husband for help with his gambling addiction. Susie gave her several resources, such as Anonymous players, and encouraged him to seek therapy. Although there were many opportunities for Susie’s husband to get help, her husband refused to admit he had a problem.
According to Karen McMahon, divorce and relationship coach and founder of Journey beyond divorce, “The trap of a gambling addiction causes chaos, creating devastating financial, emotional and personal consequences. The most important thing you can do is encourage your playing spouse to get professional help. While you can give them all the resources they need, you can’t change someone. If they’re not ready to fix their problem, you’re better served to take your part in the unhealthy dynamic by focusing on what you need, including protecting yourself from their reckless behavior.
This is precisely what Susie had to do. Her breaking point came on a Friday when she got home from work to find her husband was getting ready for the airport. The impromptu trip was quite surprising, as he had not mentioned any business trip. He informed Susie that he was going to Las Vegas. Ordinarily, she would have joined, but the growing debt and lies had grown too great. She was forced to speak out, saying, “If you go, I won’t be there when you come back.” He replied, “I guess it’s a shame that you feel that way. This problem is with you, not with me. It was clear that the eight years of their marriage couldn’t resist the hold her gambling addiction had on her brain and heart.
Take quick action to protect yourself
After she left, Susie immediately opened a bank account at a different bank than her husband’s and coordinated with the HR department of her job to deposit her paycheck. The following week, Susie made an appointment with a marriage lawyer and began divorce proceedings. It was only then that Susie realized the true extent of the massive debt her husband had accumulated. Throughout the divorce proceedings, Susie discovered that her husband had five other credit cards with $ 78,000 in debt. She also discovered that her husband had taken out a $ 50,000 loan on his 401 (k) and had exhausted the cash value of their life insurance policies.
The debt her husband had accumulated from his gambling was debilitating and putting Susie in a difficult financial position. However, the law can help protect spouses from their partner’s bad financial behavior. Gambling can be seen as a waste and a waste of assets.
According to marriage lawyer and financial litigation lawyer, Lisa Zeiderman, Esq. : “Your divorce lawyer may raise the point of unnecessary dissipation and ask for an unequal division of the marital patrimony if your partner has abused marital funds throughout the marriage. Specifically, Zeiderman says it will be essential to make discoveries and depositions in cases where gambling is an issue to determine the amount of trash. Zeiderman went so far as to issue subpoenas to casinos and other gambling establishments. Once you have discovered and accounted for the amount of money lost in gambling, that amount should be added back to the marriage pot as if it still existed, and then divided equally. Zeiderman indicates that Susie will have to show that she did not tolerate her game and that she was not a participant.
Start collecting documents immediately
According to Avani Ramnani, a certified financial analyst divorcing Francois Financial, “If you can no longer stay in your marriage due to a gambling addiction, you need to start collecting documents so that you can prove the dissipation of assets. ”
Francis Financial is one of the “best financial companies for women,” according to Working woman and Working mother magazines. Over the past decade at the firm, Ramnani has worked with hundreds of women going through divorce and has seen how gambling can create dangerous financial situations. Ramnani shares: “The best thing to do if you suspect your spouse is addicted to gambling is to get your finances in order, become financially independent, and seek professional advice as soon as possible. The more documents you can collect, the easier it will be to prove that your spouse wasted the marriage money.
Objects to collect:
- Expenses for the family.
- Bank statements dating back as long as your spouse had a gambling addiction.
- Retirement and investment account statements showing account values, holdings, cost base and account titles.
- Credit card balances and statements going back as long as your spouse had a gambling addiction.
- Mortgages and other line of credit statements showing interest rates and outstanding balances.
- Title deeds for all real estate and cars.
- Insurance policies, including declaration pages for life, health, disability and long-term care insurance.
- Employment pay stubs.
- Income statements.
- Prenuptial or post-nuptial contracts.
According to Zeiderman, a managing partner of Miller Zeiderman, LLP: “If you don’t have access to these documents, don’t worry. You can work with your lawyer and financial advisor to sew together the quilt of your finances. The most important thing is to protect yourself. How quickly you seek professional help can be the deciding factor between getting into debt or saving yourself and maintaining your financial freedom.
President and CEO, Francis Financial Inc.
Stacy is a nationally recognized financial expert and the President and CEO of Francis Financial Inc., which she founded 15 years ago. She is a Certified Financial Planner® (CFP®) and Certified Divorce Financial Analyst® (CDFA®) who provides advice to women going through transitions, such as divorce, widowhood and sudden wealth. She is also the founder of Savvy Ladies ™, a non-profit organization that has provided free personal finance training and resources to over 15,000 women.