When couples go through separation and/or divorce, physical or mental abuse could be some of the reasons. However, during the process of separation/divorce, it’s also important to guard oneself against financial abuse or mistreatment.
Experienced family lawyers, divorce lawyers or separation lawyers can help couples to ensure that their financial security is taken care of so that they (and their children) do not face monetary difficulties though their relationship has ended.
Economic Malfeasance or Abuse
Control over finances, assets, property and cash is one way in which one partner has the upper hand in a relationship. They may use threats, secrecy and certain actions to ensure that the other partner remains dependent on them financially. When children are involved, financial security is very important. This primarily impacts the partner who does not work outside the home, or is not financially independent.
Financial abuse is almost a subtle form of domestic violence. It is often masked as “protection” “caring” etc but is nevertheless a kind of bullying. It leaves the victim powerless, lacking self-esteem, feeling enslaved, trapped and destroys the sense of self-worth. Paradoxically, financial abuse can occur across any socio-economic level. Someone who manages millions of dollars in the work-place may be required to account to their partner for every soda/sandwich consumed.
In many cases, the abused partner may not even consider it as abuse, especially when they come from strongly traditional or patriarchal cultures. They rely on the other partner to make all financial decisions, sign documents without reading/perusing them. Only at the point of separation/divorce are many financial discoveries made about mortgages, good/bad investments, outstanding personal loans, liabilities, borrowings in other’s name, retirement funds, education funds etc.
- Control over common funds often against partner’s wishes
- Non-transparency over family/personal finances
- Running up liabilities in joint-accounts, debts in partner’s name, arrears in personal/business taxes
- Adding to mortgage without informing other partner
- Credit-cards in partner’s/children’s names
- Not allowing partner to work
- Disturbance/disruption at partner’s workplace causing difficulties in working
- Using threats of financial cut-off
- Seeking explanations for expenses
- Gives partner only an allowance/funds for designated purposes
- Partner barred from opening mails with bills
- Anger with spending that benefits the abused
- Repayment/Interest on “loans” for household purchases
- Double standards in spending patterns
- Control your own money and keep track of any joint-accounts/investments
- Separate your debts from partner’s
- Preserve important legal/financial documents away from home – birth-certificates, passport, social-security/insurance cards, title-deeds to personal property, etc
- Store some money with a trusted friend/relative
- Identify a place to go to in an emergency
- Create a plan for yourself and your dependents
- Save all monetary gifts
- Develop a monetizable hobby or work on-line
- If you’re leaving the relationship, take your name off joint-accounts and change the PIN and passwords of all your own accounts
Economic abuse is often combined with physical/mental cruelty. Government funds may be available for women who wish to leave abusive partners. Local Ontario Works offices, Assaulted Women’s Helplines etc may also be able to offer assistance.
As divorce/separation lawyers know from experience, it’s important for couples to protect themselves/maintain financial independence in relationships.