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Victims of financial abuse: protecting yourself during divorce

On Behalf of | Oct 24, 2018 | Domestic Violence |

Millions of people suffer abuse at the hands of an intimate partner every year. And this abuse can make it difficult to even consider the possibility of leaving the relationship. This can be particularly true for someone who is the victim of financial abuse.

Financial abuse, which reportedly occurs in an overwhelming (but not surprising) majority of assaultive or controlling relationships, creates dependency and a lack of resources for the victim. When someone has no individual earnings or autonomy over their finances, it can seem like getting out of an abusive relationship is all but impossible. However, this is not necessarily true; there are some steps you can take.

Recognizing the signs

Financial abuse includes:

  • Denied access to shared accounts
  • Intense scrutiny of a spouse’s every act of spending beyond reason
  • Hyper-controlling restrictions on withdrawing money
  • Withholding money from a partner as “punishment”
  • Restrictions on working, higher education, or developing one’s own career

Protecting yourself

If you suffer these behaviors, here are some options to escape an abusive marriage.

You can start saving money by putting small amounts of cash in an undisclosed account or sending it to a trusted friend. (You may have to account for these transfers or deductions if there is a divorce, since the funds potentially belong to the marital community. So the concealment may not be permanent. But at least you will have funds to meet your reasonable living expenses when the separation occurs.) You might also talk to someone close about the potential for a loan. 

Consider litigation options, as well. You can request temporary spousal maintenance and support for children in your care while a family court case is active. You can also ask the court to continue this support after the final decree is filed. Depending on the income difference between you and your spouse, and the reasonableness of your respective legal arguments in court, you may also receive a judgment for attorney fees. These resources can help you stay on your feet for a while as you move on with your life.