Domestic Violence: Economic Abuse and Financial Control

Economic abuse is often overlooked in cases involving domestic violence. Claiming financial control over a spouse is a powerful way to isolate them in an abusive relationship.

Restricting a person’s use of their finances keeps them from leaving the situation and getting the help they need.

Many victims of domestic violence cite economic abuse as a primary factor in their inability to separate from their abusive spouse.

Understanding economic abuse and recognizing its signs helps you and your loved ones get the support you need to keep your family safe.

What is Economic Abuse?

Economic abuse occurs when one partner gains full or partial control of the other’s finances or employment opportunities.

Victims may be unable to manage their checking accounts or income without the interference of their abusive spouse.

This forces them to be dependent on others. It can impact their ability to care for children, meet their financial obligations, and obtain education or employment.

The Center for Financial Security estimates that 99 percent of abusive relationships include some form of economic abuse. It often occurs alongside physical violence, emotional abuse, and sexual assault.

Recognizing the Signs of Economic Abuse

There are indicators that may let friends and family members know when economic abuse is taking place.

In many cases, the abuser attempts to limit a person’s access to financial accounts, assets, and information.

Victims may voluntarily give up control, believing that their spouse can be trusted to handle financial affairs. They may agree to receive an ongoing allowance, which further establishes the abuser’s control.

The following are some signs of economic abuse:

Controlling a partner’s spending

  • Denying access to joint or individual bank accounts
  • Providing an allowance in place of access to finances
  • Opening accounts in the other person’s name without permission
  • Preventing a spouse from working or causing them to lose employment

Concealing assets, theft, forced labor, sabotaging your credit, and fraud are other forms of economic abuse.  

Protecting Yourself From Financial Control

Economic abuse has lasting impacts on your financial wellbeing. It limits your ability to provide for you and your family while ruining your credit and making it harder for you to restore your financial independence.

So it’s essential that you take the right steps to remove yourself from an abusive situation and protect you and your family’s future.

Consult with a legal professional to determine the best options for your case. With the right legal resources, you can make a plan to get out of the relationship and get the help you need.

Create a list of local resources, friends, and safe spaces that you can call on when necessary. Gather all financial information and documents you have in order to regain access to your accounts.

These can be used as evidence in the legal actions you take against an abusive spouse. Include tax records, paycheck stubs, bank statements, and other relevant information.

Your attorney can help you file for temporary spousal or child support. This lets you maintain your standard of living and meet any financial obligations.

Temporary support can be obtained regardless of whether or not you file for divorce. It lets you get the financial resources you need without having to communicate with your abusive spouse.

Economic abuse is one of the most damaging forms of control that an abuser can exert over another person.

Working with a legal professional who understands economic abuse helps you develop the plan you need to regain your financial independence, freedom, and safety for the future.