A report by the Co-op Bank and the charity Refuge found that one in five adults has experienced financial abuse in a relationship.

What is financial abuse?

It can range from very subtle behaviours to the more extreme. It can form part of a pattern of wider and more serious abuse that is both physical and emotional. Abusers are in the main bullies who seek to control, manipulate and dominate an emotionally weaker partner. Many of the victims of domestic violence that we help at Townsend Family Law report that abuse can be very subtle at first, slowly chipping away at a person’s confidence, independence and self-belief.  Possessiveness is often reported as a trait which many client’s found flattering at the start of the relationship but suffocating and financially damaging by the end.

Taking control over a victim’s financial circumstances is yet another form of abuse. Control can take many forms from refusing to contribute towards the household bills, expecting you to manage it all yourself to controlling how much you spend or checking you’re spending and using this as an excuse to carry out other forms of abuse. An abuser could take over control of your bank accounts and withdraw your ability to use your accounts by taking your bank or credit card or they could be misusing your accounts sending you into a spiral of debt.

What can you do if you’re a victim of financial abuse?

First, you need to acknowledge that you are in abusive relationship and you need to bring the relationship to an end if your abuser is not prepared to seek help and change his or her behaviours for the sake of the family.

Financial abuse is a form of coercive control which is now recognised in law under the Serious Crimes Act 2015. More often than not financial control will be one of a number of abuses that you are suffering and from which you and perhaps your children need protection. There are now a number of domestic violence organisations that you can access on line to talk to for help. The Family Law Act 1996 is an important piece of legislation created to help victims of domestic violence by enabling them to apply to the family courts for injunctions as a means of protection from and prevention of abuse and can remove abusive partners from the family home

On the financial side, change your passwords to prevent further access to your accounts and online financial information. Change your bank/credit cards and speak to the bank or credit card companies about removing your partner as a second card holder. Talk to debt counselling services for help to manage or to consolidate debts. If your signature has been fraudulently used by your partner to open accounts or borrow money report the fraud.

If you believe you’re the victim of coercive or controlling behaviour and you are concerned about your emotional and financial security come and speak to one of our dedicated team of lawyers at Townsend Family Law.

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