It's a known fact among matrimonial lawyers that divorce rates go up along with money pressures. Even the most solid marriages are not immune from rough patches that come with job instability, dwindling bonuses, real estate depreciation, disappearing nest eggs and lay offs. The best way to avoid divorce court in a bad economy is to learn the techniques to recession proof your marriage.
As a former divorce attorney, I am no stranger to helping couples manage marriage and money. But you don't need a professional or deep pockets to prevent your marriage from heading south. All you need to invest is a little time together at the kitchen table to implement this 5-Step Plan for recession and relationship success:
1. Organize--Together, make a list or spreadsheet of all marital assets and debts, organize bills and bank accounts and investment statements. Stay ahead of money problems by knowing when to expect a bump in the road.
2. Equalize Control-- Both spouses should share equally in paying bills and managing bank accounts. Couples fight less when one spouse isn't left in the dark. In a partnership, both people should know what money is coming in and what money is going out of your marriage.
3. Prioritize--Decide together where and when to cut expenses, and the best way to spend your paychecks if money is tight. Focus on building your nest egg if you suspect a potential for lay-off or job loss.
4. Prepare--Stay-at-home Moms, polish your resumes and update your job skills. Take a computer class. Get ready to join the job market in case your marital financial picture changes.
5. Disclose--Be Honest... with yourself and with each other. Air out disagreements on spending and debt. Make a date to communicate about family finances at least twice a month. Even if discussing money and finances falls outside your comfort zone, the best way to put your financial house in order is to make it a habit of keeping apprised of what's happening under your own roof.
The silver lining for many couples in a bad economy is that tough times may be the best excuse for couples to open up about their finances. And if you can endure a little discomfort in the front end by airing out some financial dirty laundry, there's a big payoff at the back end. Not only will you be strengthening your relationship with your spouse, but you'll be protecting your family's assets and assuring peace of mind that if financial turbulence hits your house, you'll both be prepared to weather the storm.
Stacy Schneider is the author of He Had It Coming: How to Outsmart Your Husband and Win Your Divorce (HeHadItComingBook.com). She appears as a legal commentator on CNN, HLN and Fox News.