Many Michigan residents know that money problems often are central to marital problems. While handling financial difficulties properly can not save all marriages, a recent report from NBC News suggests that getting out of debt may be able to prevent divorce in a surprising number of situations. To be clear, financial difficulties on their own-from having trouble making mortgage payments to the burden of student loans and unexpected medical expenses-may not result in a couple deciding to get divorced. However, financial problems can exacerbate other issues in the marriage, and the recent report suggests that debt is one of the biggest financial concerns in marriages, and as such, finding a way to manage and pay down debt might actually result in fewer couples filing for divorce.
Entering into a Marriage With Debt
According to the report, more than 50% of couples enter into marriages with a significant amount of debt, and 40% of those people indicate that individual debt, combined with marital debt, played a role in their decision to file for divorce. That information comes from a recent study conducted by Fidelity on “Couples & Money.” Why is debt a bigger problem than other financial issues in a marriage? In short, couples often disagree over who is responsible for the debt. And disagreements over responsibility for paying debt typically leads couples “to suffer from poor communication, fighting, and difficulty having conversations about money.”
When all of these problems arise in relation to debt, the relationship usually suffers further. A study conducted by researchers at Utah State University determined that “fighting about finances is a top predictor of divorce, with couples who fight frequently being 30% more likely to divorce than those who rarely argue.” Fighting about money, and about responsibility for debt more specifically, can even cause other problems in the relationship.
How Debt Affects a Marriage and Leads to Divorce
In addition to arguments over debt responsibility, simply having substantial debt can make it difficult for some couples to afford necessities. For example, extremely high credit card payments might make it difficult or even impossible to pay bills. Even if that is not the case, having debt can make it difficult to pay for services that could help the marriage, such as a counselor or even a night out alone together.
On the other hand, some couples attempt to repair the relationship by spending more money than they have. They may use their credit card to charge expensive items that they hope will start the process of repairing the marriage, such as an expensive vacation or a flashy new car. However, taking on more debt to deal with financial problems in a marriage rarely has the outcome that couples seek.
Deal with Debt to Avoid Divorce
The best way to deal with marital problems caused by debt is to deal directly with the debt. It is important to keep lines of communication open and to find ways to cut back. While many couples worry about how they will be perceived if they trade in an expensive vehicle for a more practical car or decide to get rid of gym or country club memberships, getting out of debt may be the best way to avoid divorce.
In addition to cutting back, couples should come up with a plan for paying off debt. Either a “snowball” approach-paying off small balances first-or an “avalanche” approach-paying off balances with the highest interest rates-can help to manage debt and, ultimately, to rebuild the relationship before it results in divorce.
Contact a Michigan Divorce Attorney