What is financial abuse?

Couples often divorce because of money. It may be a matter where there are disagreements about spending and lifestyle versus how much to put towards retire or other long-term financial goals. Ideally, these are issues to be discussed before marriage or as it becomes time to buy homes and raise children. But communication at any time can help couples work towards an equitable solution

These disputes over control of family finances, however, can also turn dark with an element of abuse. Financial abuse involves deceit or controlling behavior regarding a family or couple’s money matters.

What financial abuse looks like

Financial abuse is more common than many realize because it is often part of more pressing or noticeable issues. It often increases over time, perhaps starting with a partner insisting on handling all the finances without sharing information or listening to input. It can grow to include more aggressive measures of control that can put the well-being of spouses and children at risk. Common examples include:

  1. Stashing money: This involves hiding cash in safe deposit boxes, opening secret bank accounts or putting cash in some safe place in the home.
  2. Credit cards: They may open credit cards sent to the house or apply for them without notifying the spouse.
  3. Default on payments: They may not pay the balance on those secret credit cards, or divert funds set aside to pay monthly bills.
  4. Leverage: The spouse uses money and the threat of cutting your access to cash to control your actions.
  5. Spending savings: They may make unauthorized withdraws from children’s college funds or retirement accounts.
  6. Preventing you from advancing your career: They do not want you to go to school or work outside the home, and they may engage in behavior that is disruptive to your job.

Getting help and protection

Help is available to anyone in a relationship with someone with controlling behavior, physical or emotional abuse or its threat. Notify the authorities immediately, if there is the threat of harm to you or the children. Counselors are also available online or in person.

Divorce may be necessary

This person may rationalize their behavior, but working marriages are an ongoing collaboration. Those who need to regain control of their lives and finances can talk to a family law attorney about filing for divorce. They can guide the client through the process and protect the individual, parental and financial interests of you and the children in a court of law if necessary.

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