How Credit Card Debt Affects Why People Divorce

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You already know how much credit card debt can affect your finances. But have you considered how unpaid balances could affect your personal life? According to a survey of divorced Americans, credit card debt can create problems for a relationship and even play a big role in why couples split up.

New survey data shows that, surprisingly, one in three divorced Americans blame credit card debt as a factor in their decision to separate from their spouse. Furthermore, these same divorcees often find themselves with even more debt after separation.

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Credit card debt and hidden expenses related to divorce

According to a recent survey of 526 divorcees by credit counseling firm, more than 1 in 3 divorced Americans say credit card debt played a role in their decision to separate from their spouse. Among those who blame credit card debt as the primary factor in their divorce, 7 in 10 say their ex-spouse hid the credit card debt from them.

Wider disagreements over spending have also caused significant rifts in marriages. About 13% of respondents say disagreements over shopping habits have contributed to the deterioration of their marriage, while 23% blame spending on restaurants and bars, and a whopping 57% blame arguments over large expenses such as cars and furniture.

Hiding expenses or debts from spouses is not new; it’s a habit called “financial infidelity” and is generally defined as choosing not to reveal financial information to your partner even though it directly affects them.

The stakes of financial infidelity also become higher and higher each year as the average debt burden grows. In the last year alone, the average American’s credit card balance increased by 8.2%. “Credit card debt and out-of-control spending can pose major relationship challenges for married couples,” President Howard Dvorkin said in the company’s press release. “These challenges are made more difficult when one or both parties to the marriage hide expenses and debts.”

Financial strain can continue even after divorce, with many respondents saying they are now tasked with relieving that debt themselves. About 37% of divorced Americans say that after the marriage ended they assumed sole responsibility for a debt previously shared by both partners.

And for many, the financial problems don’t end there; 38% say they incurred at least $10,000 in additional debt following the divorce. More than 4 in 10 say they lost at least 50 points from their credit score after the divorce, and only 14% report seeing their score increase afterward. However, only about a quarter of people said they had ever considered separation, rather than divorce, as a cost-cutting measure.

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