When domestic violence comes to mind, many people think of physical violence, or perhaps emotional abuse. Surprisingly, financial abuse may slip through the cracks, despite it being one of the most prevalent types of abuse within relationships, often going hand-in-hand with both physical and emotional battering.
Financial abuse is the act of controlling a person’s ability to acquire, use and maintain economic resources. As a result, victims may be prevented from working or having access to their own money. It’s a tactic used to force a partner to be dependent while stripping them of their freedom and ability to be self-sufficient. This then allows the abuser to have complete control over what they do, as well as makes it challenging for them to walk away from the relationship. An abuser may use subtle tactics to accomplish this, such as manipulation and round-about “reasoning”, whereas others may be more direct in their demands, using intimidation and threats to scare their partner into compliance. The following are common financially abusive behaviors:
- Preventing you from having a job
- Refusing to work
- Interfering with your efforts to work, such as work-place harassment, sabotaging childcare or transportation, etc.
- Not including you in financial decisions or allowing access to funds
- Inhibiting you from talking with others about finances
- Demanding a thorough account of all money transactions
- Taking your money without consent or confiscating your pay checks
- Not allowing your name to be on any accounts
- Intentionally damaging your credit score
- Requiring you to spend large sums of money on their needs
From a practical standpoint, financial abuse is one of the hardest types of abuse for a victim to walk away from, especially if children are involved. It’s a highly effective way of keeping an individual isolated and trapped in a toxic relationship, due to them not having the ability to initially access their funds and support themselves outside of the relationship. In addition to this, due to victims having limited resources to pay for transportation, housing or other emergency safety options, they may be subjected to increased physical abuse in their home with no ability to flee.
Even if the victim is able to walk away from the relationship, if they have no credit cards, a poor credit score, unimpressive employment records or other legal issues that often accumulate within economically abusive relationships, they may be hard-pressed to find a job and support themselves. Nonetheless, please remember: difficult does not equate to impossible. Getting out of a financially abusive relationship will take courage and tact, but it’s certainly possible. Below are helpful tips for breaking free from an abusive spouse:
- Share your story. Having a family member or friend who is willing to offer a financial safety-net and take the individual into their care while they get their feet underneath them is a powerful tool in helping a financially abused victim leave their relationship. Even if they’re willing to pay for a bus ticket to get the victim out of town, the smallest loan can help an abused individual establish distance. Many people would be surprised by how many friends or family members would be willing to step up once they understand the details of the story and the severity of the abuse.
- Make an exit plan. Ideally, don’t flee with no plan of how you’re going to get through the day. Create a list of phone numbers and addresses of people you consider safe and can trust, as well as domestic violence shelters in the immediate area you can fall back on. Almost every city will have shelters and additional resources to help support men and women who are victims of domestic violence.
- Document your situation. If possible, start gathering financial and personal documents that can serve as physical evidence of your income, your taxes, your marriage certificate, etc. If you eventually take your case to an attorney, these documents will be hugely helpful. Ask a friend or family to keep the documents in order to ensure they won’t be found by your partner.
- File for temporary support. If you’re married, you have the option to file for temporary alimony and temporary child support. There will be some filing fees to do this, but doing so does not require you to file for divorce OR communicate with your abuser in order to get access to the funds. In doing this, you’ll be able to maintain a similar lifestyle while you establish financial independence. If you’re not married, you still have a right to money that’s in your name that your partner may be withholding from you. Hiring an attorney to help with this is beneficial, but will have some initial financial obligations. If you have anyone in your life who can loan you any money to hire an attorney, the process will likely be much smoother, with better chances of a favorable outcome.
If you’re in a financially abusive relationship, it’s important you understand your rights. Married individuals who are experiencing this type of mistreatment are likely legally entitled to a lot more money and assets than they’re being led to believe. The attorneys at Pacific Cascade Family Law are ready to help you fight for your rights, so that your brighter tomorrow can be begin today. Call us today at (502) 227-0200 to set up a consultation.