Statistics show that couples cite finances or arguments about finances when they are breaking up or divorcing in most instances. Disagreements over finances can sometimes cross the line into an abusive situation. In some situations, money becomes a tool of abuse instead of a mere talking point during an argument.
Financial abuse is becoming more widely known as a leading form of domestic violence and occurs when one partner uses money as a threat or measure of control their partner. These situations can start small, with one partner ‘offering’ to take care of all of the bills or ‘giving’ the other partner a limited budget, limited debit card access or even no access to joint bank accounts. Financial abuse can even start out as a small, seemingly harmless or even a good idea like a budget until the abused partner realizes the amount of ‘spending money’ they are given ties them financially to their abuser. In a budget, finances can be unevenly distributed as well, addressing the abuser’s financial concerns and obligations without addressing the financial concerns of the controlled person or while incurring debt in the controlled person’s name. One partner may open a number of credit cards or loans in the other person’s name which will ruin credit and make it difficult for the person to obtain a lease, loan, apartment, and even employment.
When does financial abuse cross the line? 98% of women and men in controlling or domestic violence situations report a degree of financial abuse as part of their relationship. Financial abuse comes in many forms but can basically be described as situations in which one partner uses the assets or money to control the other person. An abuser or controller can limit access to the family finances, limit the other person’s ability to work, creating large amounts of debt in the other person’s name, controlling all of the money, not paying bills, ruining the other person’s credit and putting credit cards into the other person’s name as some of the many ways that financial abuse occurs in a relationship. The short term effects of financial abuse are detrimental but the long term effects are profound. Victims of abuse of this type of abuse often feel afraid or incapable of living independently from their abusive or controlling partner. Even when a victim is able to separate from their abuser, the fear and distrust of one’s self makes an abused person more likely to return to the abuser or to have difficulty in obtaining and maintaining a residence, job, and other responsibilities. In terms of separation or divorce, one party may have withheld knowledge of the finances or have over extended the family finances to reduce the community assets in order to further control the victim or to force the victim to be financially tied to their abuser. There can often be a disparity of earning potential especially when the victim of such abuse was limited during the relationship in his or her education, ability to have a support system, knowledge of the bills and ability to work full time.
There are many ways to combat this type of abuse during a divorce. Jeredith Jones, Attorney at Law has experience dealing with these types of situations and can assist in determining how best to assist in your case.