Money and Relationships: When to Take the Financial Reins

A while back, I shared my grandparents' financial story. Long story short, Grandpa liked to gamble while Grandma wanted to feed the seven children who, for some strange reason, always seemed to want to eat. When money kept running short, my grandma finally took over the finances and put Grandpa’s gambling on a strict budget.

Now, my grandparents' story is a little extreme. Many couples can work through financial difficulties and work together toward money bliss. Finances can often be joint or semi-joint (not joined but working together toward the same goal).

But what if your own experience is also a little extreme? What if your wife likes to gamble or your husband likes to spend all of your joint cash hanging out with friends? Where do you draw the line before you have to swoop in and take back the financial limelight? Let’s take a look.

When to Draw the Line

You will most likely know when it’s time to pull the plug on your spouse’s overspending, but here are a few examples of situations where you should take the financial reins:

  • Children are in Danger: Whenever children are in danger of anything, parents should jump in and save them. The same is true of financial dangers. If your children are not receiving the food and shelter necessary because of your partner’s addiction, it is time to seek help.
  • Your Spouse Will Not Listen to Reason: Once a partner reaches a point where the spending problem consumes their sense of reason, you may need to take away access to that joint account.
  • Credit Cards Keep Coming: If your spouse is addicted to credit card spending, they can get a huge rush out of buying. And this means buying anything. This can become a big problem really fast, so you might need to seek help ASAP.

There are countless other situations when you might need to take back those finances, but when you have that sinking feeling that your finances are way out of control, you will know that it’s time.

However, before you cut your spouse out entirely, try to talk to him as calmly as possible one more time to let him know your intent. At this time, you may also wish to suggest financial or marriage counseling again. If your spouse still won’t budge, it may be time to cut him out of the finances.

Cut Your Spouse Out

If you have exhausted all of your resources and your family is in danger, it may be necessary to take back the financial reins. This can go relatively well or can be horribly difficult, depending on your spouse’s response: your spouse could agree to hand over the reins or you could have to fight tooth and nail. In any case, here are a few pointers:

  • Contact a Lawyer: A lawyer can walk you through your state’s individual laws concerning married finances. Some states consider all money made within a marriage joint. Your lawyer can also draw up a postnuptial agreement, if necessary.
  • Put All of the Money into an Individual Account: Transferring all of your joint money into an individual account can seem underhanded, but if you are unable to pay bills and feed the children, taking that money from your spouse’s hands can, literally, mean life or death.
  • Arrange for a Transfer on Payday: This may be a little trickier because your spouse may have to sign off on this. If possible, request that your bank automatically transfer part or all of your partner’s paycheck to your new, individual account on payday.

I know that cutting your spouse out of finances can seem really extreme, but there are some extreme situations that call for extreme solutions. If anyone in your family is in danger because of overspending or your spouse is truly addicted to any kind of spending, you might need to take the financial reins back.

Any other tips out there? Has anyone had experience with the postnuptial agreement process? I find this idea fascinating and look forward to you sharing your insights with our readers!

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Anonymous's picture

Alex | Perfecting Dad wrote:

Wed, 07/27/2011 - 19:33 Comment #: 1

I would hate for things to get that bad! Seems like when one spouse is jeopardizing the family to such an extent then these measures are almost like precursors to divorce. I read your other post about you grandparents and am happy that you wrote about ways to prevent this. I guess you are right, when it gets this bad then you have to do something. Thanks for the article!

Anonymous's picture

Little House wrote:

Wed, 07/27/2011 - 22:47 Comment #: 2

I'd have to say that in any of these extreme cases, it's time to make a change. In my relationship, I handle all of the finances, but we're on the same page. We've changed our ways together to meet certain financial goals. Thankfully, my husband prefers me handling all the money management from day to day, yet we work together on planning where that money will go. I can't imagine living in a situation where one spouse is dead set against responsible financial decisions. I'm guessing many of those relationships don't work out in the end.

Christa Palm's picture

Christa Palm wrote:

Thu, 07/28/2011 - 18:35 Comment #: 3

Perfecting Dad, I agree that these serious issues may be precursors to divorce in many cases, but marriages can also be saved if both wish to work toward it. In my grandparents' case, Grandpa actually didn't like controlling the money (as was dictated to be his job as a man in 1950) -- he was relieved to have Grandma take over and give him a gambling allowance of a few dollars per week.

Little House, I like how you work your finances! Finding a solution that works for both is key :-)

Anonymous's picture

Finances and Relationships - Taking on Tough Topics | MomVes wrote:

Sat, 01/21/2012 - 18:00 Comment #: 4

[...] is it time to take control of the finances for someone else? It's never an easy decision, but here are some red-flag warning [...]

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