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What Does the Term “Out Spouse” Mean?

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The term “out spouse” is commonly used by family law and divorce lawyers. When a couple is getting a divorce, sometimes both spouses have been involved equally in the financial decisions throughout the marriage. Maybe one paid the bills and worked with the CPA on the taxes while the other was in charge of investing the assets and getting insurance. They may also meet with their attorney, investment advisor, and CPA together. In this situation, both have shared many of the legal, tax, and financial responsibilities. If this couple separates, they can both confidently pick up the financial duties their ex-spouse was doing and take over with little worry or uncertainty.

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But what happens if one spouse has all of the relationships with the professionals and was responsible for paying the bills, invested the money, and all things financial, legal, and tax related and the other spouse doesn’t? In this situation, the spouse with the relationships and the experience is called the “in spouse” because they have an “in” with the CPA, the attorney, and the investment advisor and because they feel confident in their ability to seamlessly take over their own finances.

The “out spouse” then, is the other spouse — the spouse that doesn’t have the relationships or the day-to-day experience managing the legal, tax, and financial matters. Maybe before marriage they did these things, but because it’s been so many years where they didn’t have to think about it, they feel “out of it.” While the out spouse certainly can re-learn the practical skills and develop the relationships, there can be a period of time during and after the divorce that some feel paralyzed. Often this is the result of not knowing who to trust. Which attorney is right for them? Which financial advisor has their best interests at heart? During and after a divorce you want to surround yourself with people you know and can trust. The in spouse has this, but the out spouse has to create this from scratch. This can take time and cause some anxiety.