3 Ways To Recognize Financial Abuse
Like any form of domestic violence between spouses or partners, the effects of financial abuse can be devastating. Are you experiencing financial or economic abuse by your partner or spouse? Here’s how to tell — and how to get help.
Requests to take control
Sudden and frequent demands to be overly involved in your finances can be an immediate red flag that your partner may be using money as a way to control you. For example, did they insist on being a co-signer on your bank accounts, or have they removed your name from certain accounts? Do they do things like take possession of your paychecks or give you an “allowance?”
In the beginning of a relationship, offers to assist with finances may seem generous, even helpful. “Don’t worry about writing the checks for the bills — I’ll do this.” These actions might seem innocuous at first, but when financial abuse is present, over time, abusers typically leave their victims with little to no money and no way to access bank accounts, paychecks, or even small amounts of extra cash that are not “approved.” If you do try to access money, there may be physically or emotionally abusive repercussions.
Financial Safety Tip: Anywhere you have money, you should have access to it. There are very few practical circumstances that would make handing over a paycheck for someone else to cash or keep a reasonable choice. Regularly check account statements to ensure that financial information and the names on the account are correct. Consider maintaining a separate/solo bank account even if you are married.
Running up bills
Another way partners can economically control is by running up large amounts of credit card debt on joint accounts without your permission. Having the great burden of this debt leaves someone with an inability to get their own credit, get their own apartment and move out of the abusive situation.
Further, if you do not have control over your paychecks or bank account, you cannot take you own steps to pay down the debts to get out of the hole. Without having access to the accounts, you may not even be aware that the debts have been run up beyond control.
Financial Safety Tip: If you suddenly see letters from bill collectors or credit card agencies in your mailbox, take action and investigate. If your partner has run up a joint credit card account, contact your credit card company and cancel the card. If your partner is withdrawing unauthorized sums from your joint bank account, contact your bank and advise them what is going on. If you are in a violent or dangerous situation, make sure that you are safe before taking steps that may escalate the situation.
Forbidden from working or sabotaging employment
In order to exert even more control over their partner, economic abusers may cause their partner to be fired from their job, may forbid them from obtaining a new job or may even sabotage an upcoming job interview. Extreme insecurity and fear dominates these actions and having you not earning your own living creates a false sense of security that you cannot leave without financial resources.
Financial Safety Tip: If you can, talk to your employer about your situation. Talk to a trusted friend or family member to see if they can assist you in obtaining new employment without your partner knowing that you are exploring new job opportunities. Consider leaving your situation and moving in with your friend or family member while you search for a new job and get back on your feet. Please be aware that you can apply for temporary spousal support and temporary child support to give you money to live.
Above all, be safe. If you have an emergency or are in danger, call 911 and leave the area if you can. The most important consideration you have as an abuse survivor is your safety and the safety of your children. If you need more resources or further information, the National Domestic Violence Hotline is 800-799-SAFE. Please see our resource list for domestic violence services in New Jersey.
If you would like to speak with an attorney about establishing a temporary restraining order, or how to obtain alimony and child support to help give you money to live, contact us to schedule your initial confidential consultation with one of our caring and experienced family law attorneys. We are here to help you take the steps you need to reach safety. Call today: 888-888-0919.
Bari Weinberger for HuffPo: It Adds Up: Financial Abuse is Domestic Abuse