Families Change Guide to Separation & Divorce

3.4 - Financial Abuse

3.4 - Financial Abuse

After  people separate, it’s necessary to build a different financial relationship. One person may have been dependent on the other financially, but this needs to change. Over time, they need to develop a business-like relationship when dealing with financial matters.

When there is financial inequality between separated partners, there may also be a financial power imbalance that can result in financial abuse. We tend to think of domestic abuse as physical violence or assault. In reality, domestic abuse includes physical, sexual, financial or psychological abuse.  The abuse can be caused by men or women.  Often, where there is one form of abuse, there are other forms as well.

Domestic abuse may also be defined by identifying its intent – such as the domination, punishment or control of one’s partner. Abusers use physical and sexual violence, threats, money, and emotional and psychological abuse to control their partners and get their way.

Financial abuse involves forcing the victim to be financially dependent on the abuser because his or her access to money and financial information has been cut off.

Abusive conduct changes the balance between individuals. Too often the victims of abuse are not aware of their rights or even aware that they are victims of abuse. While financial abuse is not as obvious or observable as other types of abuse, it interferes with the safety and well-being of individuals.

Financial abuse can take many forms, like denying the other parent access to funds, or making the other parent solely responsible for all finances. In financial abuse, the abuser uses money to control the victim.

Financial abuse between partners may include a range of controlling actions:

  • Preventing a partner  from getting or keeping a job;
  • Denying access to financial information or resources, like bank accounts, credit cards, or the check book;
  • Demanding that the other person turn over their pay check or any other money they receive ;
  • Forcing the other person to account for every penny spent;
  • Withholding child support;
  • Manipulating or exploiting someone for financial gain; and/or
  • Hiding and failing to disclose honestly all financial assets.

Financial abuse interferes with the ability of separating families to reach fair and realistic separation agreements between the two parties.

Help is available. If you feel that you are being abused you can:

  • Obtain Legal advice on your rights, responsibilities, and legal options;
  • Get Assistance in developing a safety plan that protects what money is coming in and/or enforces a support order; and
  • Access Community resources for help, advocacy and/or counseling, such as  specialized victim assistance programs, women’s centers, men’s groups, multicultural and cultural programs and domestic violence shelters. 

To locate these resources, phone the National Domestic Violence Hotline 1-800-799-7233 (TDD: 1-800-787-3224). It’s free and private. They can help you in more than 100 languages. The Resources section of this website provides useful information and services that can help.