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Divorce: What Do “In-Spouse” & “Out-Spouse” Mean?

Finances & Divorce

It is not uncommon for married couples to delegate household responsibilities, and often this includes the management of the family’s finances. When this happens, it is easy for one spouse to lose sight of the couple’s financial situation. This might also mean that one spouse doesn’t have access to all of the family’s financial accounts or even knowledge of all of their financial holdings. When this happens, the spouse who is kept in the dark is considered the “out-spouse.” The “in-spouse” is the person who has full knowledge of and access to the couple’s financial picture.

In-spouses and out-spouses are not necessarily correlated with the person who is working outside the home and the person who takes care of the household. It is not uncommon for the stay-at-home parent to manage the couple’s finances, especially if their spouse is in a high-pressure job or works long hours. Additionally, if both parties work, the higher earner is not necessarily the in-spouse, with the lower earner being the out-spouse. However, it is worth noting that women are likelier to be the out-spouse.

The Trouble with Being the Out-Spouse

Though the delegation of responsibility in a marriage can be incredibly beneficial, when it comes to finances, it can leave one spouse particularly vulnerable, especially if the relationship breaks down and the couple divorces. In cases where one spouse doesn’t have knowledge or access to a couple’s full financial portfolio (including debts), the “in-spouse” holds a lot of power.

The out-spouse is also more vulnerable to:

  • Hidden assets
  • Misappropriation of marital funds
  • Dissipation of marital funds
  • Financial abuse

This is not to say that all situations where there is an in-spouse and an out-spouse are inherently problematic, but transparency regarding finances is always encouraged. Even in cases where the divorcing spouses trust each other, it is very easy for things to be overlooked or for the out-spouse to be blindsided or surprised by something that they didn’t know about (such as the amount of debt a couple is in).

What You Should Do If You Are the Out-Spouse & Are Divorcing

If you are considering going through a divorce or have already started the process, you should discuss the situation with your attorney. During the divorce process, you and your spouse will have to participate in discovery. Discovery is when you and your spouse are required to provide all material facts about your situation (this includes financial disclosures) so that you can move forward with negotiating a divorce settlement. By clueing your attorney in on the fact that you believe you are an out-spouse or if you feel like you are in the dark about your finances, they can remain extra vigilant during the divorce process and be on the lookout for potential red flags that indicate a problem. You should also inform your attorney if you suspect your spouse has hidden assets or misappropriated marital funds.

What You Should Do If You Are the In-Spouse

As we have previously mentioned, just because someone is the in-spouse doesn’t mean that they are untrustworthy or that someone should be suspicious of them. However, if you are the in-spouse and are divorcing, you want to protect yourself from being accused of hiding assets, misappropriating funds, dissipating marital assets, or other malfeasance. Make sure to fully disclose your financial situation and your dynamic with your spouse to your attorney. This will help them fully understand the situation and ensure that all financial matters are fully disclosed during discovery, thereby protecting you and encouraging an open and honest divorce process.

Do you have questions about dealing with your finances during your divorce? Reach out to Casey, Simmons & Bryant, PLLC, for help. Our attorneys have extensive experience handling all types of divorce cases, including high-asset and high-conflict divorces, and we are prepared to put our experience to work for you.