While performing a credit check on your partner may seem like the least romantic thing you could ever do, Graham Doessel CEO of MyCRA Lawyers suggests laying your financial soul bare is vital in any serious relationship.
Doessel quips if people compared credit file compatibility rather than star signs, the divorce rate would probably halve overnight.
Family lawyer Patrick Earl of ADS Law said one of the root causes of marriage break-down is financial incompatibility. Many people will consult their stars and online questionnaires to work out their love match but they will overlook their financial suitability and this is a big mistake.
“If a miser marries a shopaholic then I am pretty sure they are going to end up seeing a lawyer like me. People don’t realise once you’re married you’re stuck with the financial decisions your partner makes so you both need to be on the same page. Just as you get to split the assets when you get divorced you get to split the debts as well,” he said.
“Marriage is like a business and you’re both in the business together. I’ve had clients getting divorced who have tried to argue that they should not be liable for their partner’s financial decisions, but often they are.
“This is how much things can come down to money, I had one client who even argued his wife had devalued herself by ‘letting herself go’ by putting on weight, and therefore she deserved less of the financial settlement. The clause in your marriage vows for better or worse, rich or poorer, is talking about your partner’s financial indiscretions,” Earl said.
Doessel said someone’s credit file really is a window to their soul because you can’t hide your financial misdeeds.
“Because credit reporting has changed, now if you are 14 days late paying a bill it goes on your credit file. RHI or Repayment History Information means any creditor can report to a credit reporting body that you have missed a payment by just 14 days.
“Get just one of these and a happy couple will soon find they can’t take that next step of buying a house or car on finance or perhaps can’t even get credit at their baby store,” Doessel said.
“I would seriously think twice about getting involved with someone with a lot of debt.
“We hear all the stories of how partners hide their spending habits from partners, from the old buying gift cards to other stores and hiding it the grocery bill, to buying something expensive and returning it for something cheaper and spending the difference on themselves.
“In some cases, one partner is even hiding their tardy bill paying from the other and often it ruins both individuals credit rating because these late payments are now recorded.
“We have even seen spouses doctor up fake bills and have secret bank accounts,” Doessel said.
Normally one of the first indications a person gets of what their partner is like with money is when it comes to a wedding, Doessel said.
The average cost of a wedding in Australia these days is $65,482 according to a survey in Bride to Be magazine. It’s almost double the government’s estimate on its Moneysmart website of $36,200.
Doessel said some couples are sacrificing everything including their financial future in the form destroying their credit rating all for one big day and some photographs.
“Some couples make huge sacrifices including not paying their bills on time which can jeopardize their happiness once the honeymoon is over, due to the shear stress it will place on them down the track,” Doessel confirmed.
“We’ve had a number of clients who have presented with defaults on their credit file and when we ask them how they got into this predicament, it’s been a dream wedding that has led them to rob Peter to pay the wedding planner,” Doessel said.
“Financial stress is one of the biggest precursors to divorce and we find many clients had no idea late bill payment was potentially financially crippling. Of course, planning a wedding is a busy time and sometimes bills are missed. Often the first couples know about the missed payment is when they get rejected for a loan.
“Same goes for having a baby, buying a home and other life-changing events, the mundane can get missed like paying a bill and before you know it your credit is ruined for up to 5 years.
“It’s why everyone should check their credit file at least once a year,” Doessel concluded.