When people think of abuse, physical harm often comes to mind. They imagine their spouse hitting, slapping, punching, kicking, or attempting to strangle them. Maybe their spouse has hit them with objects or tried to stab or shoot them.
Emotional abuse is also common in relationships. One person may constantly berate the other, criticizing them, calling them names and yelling at them. This abuse can ruin one’s self-esteem.
A type of abuse that many people overlook is financial abuse. This type of abuse involves money, and is done by one spouse to gain control and power over the other. This is done through various manipulative tactics that can be subtle or overt. These ruses may involve hiding information or limiting the other spouse’s access to money. The spouse may intimidate or threaten the victim to force them to stay in the marriage. Financial abuse can happen at any time in a marriage. It may have always been present or the spouse may start to exhibit behaviors when the other spouse is preparing for divorce.
Financial abuse occurs in many marriages, but the other spouse is typically unaware of it or they simply ignore it. They may think that it is normal or they try to trivialize it. However, financial abuse is something that needs to be addressed, as it is often connected to domestic violence. In fact, 98% of women who are physically abused are also financially abused.
What is Financial Abuse?
Financial abuse can take on many forms. The following are some common examples:
- Controlling all money
- Refusing to work or pay bills
- Prohibiting the spouse from being involved in banking or investment decisions
- Withholding access to money and bank accounts so the victim and children are unable to pay for basic needs
- Forbidding the other spouse from working and earning money
- Sabotaging employment opportunities
- Stalking or harassing the spouse while they are at work
- Forcing the spouse to engage in financial crimes such as writing bad checks
- Using joint accounts to charge large amounts of money
- Hiding assets
- Manipulating the victim’s public benefits
- Identity theft
- Refusing to pay child support
The Dangers of Financial Abuse
Many victims are unaware of the dangers of financial abuse. They may think giving money to their spouse is normal behavior, but it is not when the spouse tries to control all the money and gives the victim no access to it. In short, money is needed for survival and safety. Without money, a person cannot buy food, clothing, housing, transportation, medication, and other necessities. When a person has no access to money, they cannot provide for themselves or their children. Therefore, they feel coerced into staying in an abusive relationship.
Financial abuse can cause not only financial damage, but emotional damage as well. The victims allow it to continue because they are scared. They may be afraid of the repercussions if they attempt to leave the abuser. They do not think they have any other options, so they never achieve financial independence.
You do not have to be in this situation. Leaving an abuser is never easy, but it is doable. It requires a significant amount of bravery. Seek help from family and friends. You may be able to stay with them as you navigate your divorce. Get a lawyer. Gather all important documents, such as your birth certificate, Social Security card, marriage license and any financial records you have.
If you have an income, open a new account and start saving up. It can take years to save up enough money to get back on your feet again, so start as soon as possible. Learn more about finances so you can accumulate wealth quickly and avoid the same situation in the future.
Are You a Victim of Financial Abuse?
Abusers often work in covert ways. They are crafty and creative. Because the behavior is often subtle, victims are often unaware they are being financially abused. In fact, they may even mistake it for love. However, if you think financial abuse may be a possibility, you need to protect yourself. Here are some questions to ask yourself:
- Is your marriage a true partnership? If you make less money than your spouse, does he or she still treat you as an equal?
- Does your partner try to intimidate you? Does he or she physically or emotionally threaten or coerce you to do things they want you to do?
- Do you discuss finances in a healthy manner? Do you to negotiate or compromise, or does one spouse simply make financial decisions without the other spouse’s input?
- Do you avoid talking about certain topics, such as finances, because your spouse does not allow them? Does your husband or wife ignore you or get angry when you talk about money?
Seek Legal Help
If you are a victim of financial abuse, you are likely a victim of other forms of abuse, as well. This is not normal. Do not continue to stay in an abusive marriage. If your spouse is controlling your finances to the point where it is ruining your employment opportunities, social life, and marriage, it is time to get out.
You may be scared to leave such a relationship, but Palm Beach divorce attorney Scott J. Stadler can offer you the resources you need to protect yourself and children, if applicable. Now is the time to move on. We can help. Schedule a consultation by calling (954) 346-6464 today.