Spotting A Cheater

By G. Patrick Kelley

October 19, 2007 5 min read


Returns can provide clues to marital infidelity

G. Patrick Kelley

Copley News Service

Think your husband is stepping out on you? Got a red-hot wife who has to work a lot of overtime?

An expert says tax time can be a great time to find clues if you think your spouse isn't telling you the whole truth about finances - or other things.

"A significant amount of financial infidelity is discovered during the tax season by spouses filing joint returns," said Ruth Houston, founder of and author of "Is He Cheating on You? - 829 Telltale Signs" (Lifestyle Publications, $29.95).

"If they suspect financial infidelity, certainly this is a time when they can find out if those suspicions are unfounded," Houston said. Financial infidelity - hiding the truth about finances from a spouse - often is linked to marital infidelity, Houston said.

One thing to look at on that 1040 is income from sources you didn't know anything about. One woman saw that her husband listed unemployment compensation as income.

She had no idea her husband was unemployed.

He came and went on his usual schedule. "Where was he going each day?," Houston said. He also took a couple of business trips, and he had substantial interest on several bank accounts she didn't know about.

Another giveaway might be income or salary discrepancies. "A lot of time, financial infidelity is linked to marital infidelity, and a common excuse is having to work overtime," Houston said. If your spouse has been working a lot of overtime but there's nothing to show for it, it's something to be concerned about, but not necessarily proof, she said.

"It's wise to be aware." Studies show that "financial infidelity affects a third of committed relationships," she said. "There is a link between financial infidelity and sexual infidelity, especially if the spouse has always been open and suddenly becomes secretive."

She cites studies that say 45 percent to 55 percent of married women and 50 percent to 60 percent of married men engage in extramarital sex at some time or another during their marriage. Also, 60 percent of husbands and 40 percent of wives will have an affair at some point.

"It's generally the man" who doesn't want his wife to realize he's been spending on his mistress, but a woman suspecting her husband wants a divorce might start to siphon off funds, she said.

Houston says affairs cost money, and if a husband has a lover, he'll want to wine her, dine her, entertain her and buy her occasional gifts. No matter how well he tries to cover his tracks, sooner or later it will show up in the family finances.

But finding financial discrepancies "doesn't always have to be a sign of sexual infidelity." Houston said financial infidelity could be caused by problems like gambling, drugs or alcohol.

Or, "It could just be a communications problem. If a spouse doesn't want to talk about it, they may need to look at overall communications in the marriage."


Here are Ruth Houston's five signs of financial infidelity to be alert for on joint tax returns:

- Interest on bank accounts you didn't even know he had

- Liquidation of assets without your knowledge or consent

- Real estate you were unaware he owned

- Income or salary discrepancies

- Profits from business interests or investments you knew nothing about

And six tax season shenanigans that can alert you to financial infidelity:

- Wants to file separate returns when you've always filed joint returns in the past

- Asks you to sign your joint tax return without first looking it over

- Refuses to explain questionable items on the tax return

- Refuses to show you a copy of the final return

- Signs (forges) your name on the joint tax return files without telling you

- Doesn't let you know when the refund check arrives, or spends the refund check without your knowledge or consent

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