recognizing the signs of financial abuse

Recognizing Financial Abuse: 8 Clues That Your Loved One Is Being Controlled

recognizing the signs of financial abuse

Are you concerned that your loved one’s partner controls all the money? There’s a difference between a mutual agreement in which one responsible spouse handles the finances, and an imbalance of power in which one partner manipulates the other into being the financial gatekeeper. 

According to the Center for Financial Security, 99% of domestic violence cases involve financial abuse. Financial abuse prevents victims from acquiring, using and maintaining monetary resources. If your loved one is being financially abused, she may lack the money and good credit necessary to support herself and her children.

Note: the pronoun “she” is used in this article for the sake of continuity, but either gender is vulnerable to financial abuse.

8 Signs That Your Loved One Is Being Controlled

  1. Her spouse controls her access to money. She has no bank account or credit cards of her own. Her name doesn’t appear on the deed to the house or car titles. She may be forced to hand over her paycheck to her spouse and given a small amount just enough to cover basic household expenses; her partner may put the rest in a separate checking account. He partner may force her to put utilities bills in her name so she’s responsible for paying them out of her “allowance.”
  2. Financial exploitation. If she has money of her own, her spouse manipulates her into giving him access. He may tell her it’s a “loan,” then never pays her back. He refuses to work, then drains her income. Despite not earning money himself, he insists on managing all of it. He keeps her in the dark about how much they have and how much they owe.
  3. Fraud. Her spouse forges her name to take out a second mortgage or open a credit card in her name. She may not realize that he has reported false income to the IRS.
  4. Debt. She may have no idea how dire their financial situation is until collections agents show up at the door. If her credit is demolished, she may feel trapped because she’ll have a difficult time finding housing, leasing a car, or doing anything that requires a credit check.
  5. Job interference. Abusers often convince people to quit jobs in order to make them financially dependent. Your loved one’s spouse may be jeopardizing her employment by showing up at her workplace in a threatening manner. The stress of abuse she suffers at home may hamper her job performance and she gets fired. If she wants to go back to school to acquire more marketable skills, her spouse prevents her from doing so, or simply undermines her confidence by telling her she’s incompetent.
  6. Talking about money is taboo. Your loved one’s spouse becomes so volatile when she tries to talk about their financial situation that she’s afraid to broach the subject. He behaves in a threatening manner in order to get her to back down.
  7. She has to account for every penny. Her spouse insists that she keep every receipt to prove what she spent the money on. If her accounting is off, or a receipt is missing, she may receive physical, emotional, or verbal punishment.
  8. Threats. He reminds her that she has no money when she’s “acting up” or when she wants to leave the relationship. Conversely, he threatens to leave if she doesn’t do what he wants, and promises he’ll leave her with nothing. Or he makes her doubt herself by telling her she can’t make it without him.

You can help empower your loved one so she has enough financial resources to leave by encouraging her to do the following:

  • Make an exit plan. Your loved one needs to feel secure enough to leave. She should have a place to stay and keep a to-go bag in the car with copies of important documents so she can leave at any moment. [Download our free Domestic Violence Safety Plan.]
  • Squirrel away money. If she doesn’t have to account for every penny, she should stash what she can in a separate bank account. You could contribute to her “to go fund” by taking up donations from family and friends.
  • Get an income stream. Your loved one may need to hide the fact that she’s earning money. If her spouse leaves during the day for work, she could do something to earn money during that time: tutoring, babysitting, making products that she sells on Etsy. A Google search for “internet jobs from home” will turn up numerous options. If she applies for a full-time job out of the home and is hired, she must be prepared to leave immediately.
  • Establish credit. If your loved one has no credit cards in her name, she needs to apply for one. Once she gets her own card, she should make small purchases and pay them off religiously in order to build her credit.

While it may feel excruciating to watch someone you love remain in an abusive relationship, it’s important to realize that people are most at risk when they leave. This is why making a solid exit plan is crucial.

We have made a short webinar on financial abuse:

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 in the aftermath of financial abuse, contact us to schedule your free and 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. 

financial abuse is domestic abuse