Financial Infidelity – it is real and it can happen to you!

I have previously discussed this topic but as a result of the number of clients I see who are victims of this financial infidelity I thought I would raise it again.

In layman terms “financial infidelity” is a term coined to describe the activities of a partner who is hiding the real financial picture from you.

It comes in many guises but in its simplest form it could be anything from secret shopping to having secret credit cards.  However, at the other end of the scale it could be gambling debts or a business venture that has gone bad – and it could be eating away the equity you have in your home – and all without your knowledge.

There are many reasons people seek to hide the truth from their partner.  They range from being ashamed of their actions, a sense of entitlement to being scared about what their partner will say or do when the truth inevitably comes out.

Unfortunately many people don’t know that there partner has been financially unfaithful until it is too late and there is a large debt to be paid off or they no longer have an asset worth what they thought it was.

However, you can have some degree of protection by ensuring you and your partner have a basic understanding of where each other is at financially. Even if one person handles the finances in the relationship, the other should at least understand the basics of how much is being spent and how much is being saved.  It is important to also seek the advice of your accountant or solicitor when committing to large business dealings to ensure you fully understand your obligations, especially if you will not be actively involved in the business. I see way too many couples who did not realize the implications of acting as a guarantor for their spouse only to find that they ended up with a massive debt after they separated and the business subsequently collapsed.

The bottom line is that lack of honesty can and does ruin marriages, especially when it comes to finances. So be up front with each other, obtain independent advice if necessary, and ensure your financial future is as protected as it can be.

Domestic Violence and Family Law

Leisa ToomeyWhen dealing in Family Law matters I pretty much see it all. Sometimes I see the best in people but sadly, I also see the worst. And when it comes to domestic violence, protecting a child, whilst trying to balance the relationship that child has with an abusive parent or parents, is not always as clear cut or as easy as you could imagine.
In an attempt to find the right balance, the government has a Bill before the Federal Parliament seeking to amend some of the deficiencies in the current legislation, whilst at the same time improving the ability of courts, to protect children who might be at risk from family violence.

In short the Bill is seeking to widen the definition of “abuse” to include psychological abuse and serious neglect and provide clear examples of family violence such as stalking, repeated derogatory taunts, intentionally causing death or injury to an animal and, intentionally damaging or destroying property. Other examples include social isolation and withholding financial support.

For the first time the Bill also includes a statutory definition of “exposed”:

“For the purposes of this Act, a child is exposed to family violence if the child sees or hears family violence or otherwise experiences the effects of family violence. Examples of situations that may constitute a child being exposed to family violence include (but are not limited to) the child:
(a) overhearing threats of death or personal injury by a member of the child’s family towards another member of the child’s family; or
(b) seeing or hearing an assault of a member of the child’s family by another member of the child’s family; or
(c) comforting or providing assistance to a member of the child’s family who has been assaulted by another member of the child’s family; or
(d) cleaning up a site after a member of the child’s family has intentionally damaged property of another member of the child’s family; or
(e) being present when police or ambulance officers attend an incident involving the assault of a member of the child’s family by another member of the child’s

The Bill makes it abundantly clear that a child’s right to be protected from family violence is greater than the right of the abusive parent to have contact with the child or children. Family Law disputes are hard for everyone involved – particularly children. It may be difficult, but it is vital to ensure their well being at all times, particularly when emotions are running high and the temptation is there to say or do things that you wouldn’t dream of under normal circumstances.

Divorce – Helping your children cope

You know the relationship is over and now you have to tell the children. When is the right time? Should you both be there? How much do you tell them? These are some of the hard questions I get asked on a regular basis, often by understandably distressed parents. A colleague of mine Dr Bob Jacobs, who is a trained psychologist regularly conducts seminars for us and he has a wonderful insight into how parents can help their children through a time when their world appears to be crumbling around them. In this column I thought I would share some of Dr Bob’s thoughts from a recent seminar:

1) Do not expose children to conflict
If there are problems on “change-overs” figure out a better way to handle them. If phone calls inevitably lead to conflict resolve not to talk when the children are around.

2) Prioritise your own emotional stability
Take care of yourself. Your children will know if you are struggling and it makes them fearful and insecure.

3) Maintain logistical stability
Keep things as “normal” as possible in the children’s routine. Any continuity in a child’s life is a real blessing for him at this time when the world is turning upside down.

4) Don’t say anything bad about the other parent
This one is self explanatory.

5) Tell the truth
Children always need to trust their parents and this is never truer than when everyone is going through the trauma of separation. This doesn’t mean tell them everything but it does mean not to tell them things that aren’t true.

6) Use the three-part response to difficult statements

  • Ask the child how it made him feel (prioritise the child’s feeling, not your reaction).
  • Tell the child how much you love her.
  • If the child still wants to know WHY it was said, tell him you don’t know.

7) Do not ask questions about the other parent
This puts a child in a very difficult position. If you need to know ask your former partner when your child isn’t around, but never use your child as a source of information.

8) Celebrate and support the other parent as much as you can
This isn’t easy, but it can be an amazing gift for your child. If your child brings up something that happened with the other parent you can truly be excited about it. If you can send something to the other parent with the child, such as a school photo, it is a huge gift for the child (to see the cooperation). Remember your gift is for your child, not for your ex.