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Recognizing Financial Abuse

Abuse can come in many forms, all of which can have severe, lasting effects on a victim. When you think of domestic violence, you might think of physical abuse like hitting and kicking or emotional abuse, like manipulating the victim into complying with the abuser’s demands. These are only two of the many ways domestic violence can manifest in a marriage.

Financial abuse is a form of domestic violence that is not discussed as frequently as other types, possibly because it is not as easy to recognize. Financial abuse is the use of finances, debt, and earning capacity to keep another individual under one’s control. Because marital assets and debts belong to both spouses, it can be easy for an individual in a financially abusive relationship to go years without realizing that he or she is being mistreated. If you determine that you are in a financially abusive relationship, get out and consider filing for divorce.

Financial Abuse is About Control

At its core, domestic violence is about maintaining control over another human being. While emotional and psychological abuse keep the victim from his or her support system through shame, fear, and a warped perception, financial abuse keeps the victim financially dependent on his or her abuser. A few examples of financial abuse include:

  • Prohibiting a victim from working or completing an educational program that would enable him or her to get a job or a promotion;
  • Prohibiting the victim from using a credit card or having money or his or her own and instead, giving the victim an allowance;
  • Making significant purchases without the victim’s consent, potentially putting him or her into debt in doing so; and
  • Forcing the victim to commit financial crimes, such as writing bad checks or committing tax fraud, for the abuser’s benefit.

What to Do if You are in a Financially Abusive Relationship

Do not assume that you are not being harmed simply because you are not being physically abused. As a competent adult, you have the capability and the right to manage your own finances. If you are in a relationship where your partner has robbed you of your agency through financial abuse, seek shelter with a close friend or relative and if you cannot, get yourself to your local domestic violence victims’ shelter. Contact an experienced divorce lawyer to discuss the next steps in ending the relationship, which could include a restraining order.

Work with an Experienced La Crosse Divorce Lawyer

Financial abuse can be as destructive as other forms of domestic violence. If you recognize signs of financial abuse in your marriage, get out when you can safely do so. There are many resources available to help you leave your marriage and start working toward the next chapter in your life, such as the National Domestic Violence Hotline. When you are ready to begin the divorce process, contact our team of experienced divorce lawyers at Moen Sheehan Meyer, Ltd. to set up your initial consultation.

Published January 23, 2017
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