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Signs Of Financial Abuse During Divorce

Signs Of Financial Abuse During Divorce

Let’s discuss a lesser-known form of abuse… Financial abuse. Like emotional and verbal abuse, financial abuse goes unseen.

Just because it goes unseen does not mean it causes any less devastation to the victim.  Financial abuse is a control method that’s used to control another.

This can leave someone feeling depressed, shameful, and hopeless about their current situation and future.

In this article you will learn about what financial abuse is, what it looks like, why it occurs, and the damage it does to people.

What is financial abuse?

Financial abuse is also known by another name, economic abuse. This type of abuse is typically committed by an intimate partner and is mostly seen in emotional, verbal, and/or physical relationships.

Financial abuse is the withholding, financial control of purchases, and the spending of money without the victims consent.

While this is a vary broad definition of this type of abuse, let’s look at some signs of economic abuse that exists within relationships.

Signs Of Financial Abuse During Divorce

  • A spouse spending money without your knowledge or on things you do not agree with
  • Giving a “budget” or “allowance”
  • A spouse feels entitled to money
  • Limits your ability to obtain higher education to keep you from making more money
  • Uses credit cards and maxes them out
  • Limits access to money and assets
  • Uses financial assets to control another person
  • A spouse threatens to “cut you off financially” if they think you did something wrong
  • Controls how money is spent
  • Financial abuse is often accompanied with emotional or physical abuse

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Why Does Financial Abuse Occur?

The signs of financial abuse can happen with or without a divorce taking place. However, it is more likely that financial abuse will occur if there is any form of abuse happening before the victim leaves.

If abuse is present before a separation, then financial abuse is more likely to be seen and there are a couple reasons why.

Number one: Control

Control of another is everything when it comes to any form of abuse, sexual, financial, physical and mental.

When someone has control over your finances, they are essentially controlling your life.

With limited or withholding of funds entirely you can no longer do the things you once loved.

This limits the places you go, the things you like doing and the people you see.

Think of it like this: If your spouse controls your money, it’s most likely you have to ask permission to use or to even have access to your own money.

This puts your spouse in control of your behavior and creates an unequal power dynamic where he/she is in control of you.

Control is everything in an abusive relationship to an abuser because it leaves you in constant need of your abuse.

You have to then rely on your abuser for everything including exerting your own right to live your life outside of your abuser’s control.

Number 2: Harm

Yes, no matter how much you don’t want to believe it, an abuser is showing signs of financial abuse and exerting that type of control because they want to hurt you!

I am so sorry to be the one to tell you that. But sometimes in life we have to face the harsh reality of our situations so we can then move forward.

We who have experienced any form of abuse at the hands of someone who care for or love, we don’t want to believe that our abuser would mean us any harm.

We loll ourselves into a false sense with the thought that the abuser has our best interest and mind.

We tell ourselves that the one we love would never hurt us intentionally and is only controlling because of a past failed relationship or that they love us so much.

While it’s a nice thought, abusers do know what they are doing! One of the hallmarks of any abuser is manipulation.

Manipulation tactics occur to “flip the script” per say and convince you that they are only out to protect and care for you. In reality, the abuse does mean to harm you!

Financial abuse is a perfect example of how far control and harm can go!

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How Financial Abuse During Divorce May Harm You

Financial abuse is more than just controlling or withholding the finances of another person, it has a deep and long-term effect on the victim.

This type of abuse doesn’t only affect finances, but your emotional state as well.

Here are the ways financial abuse during divorce can affect the victim:

  • Feeling a constant state of control under your partner
  • You may feel as though you no longer have any say over your own decisions
  • Damage credit score of the victim
  • Likes and dislikes with purchases are no longer your own
  • Your partner can force you to work a certain job or prevent promotions at work to keep you under their control even during divorce
  • Added stress to try and meet your financial needs (or your struggling just to “get by”)
  • Limits your ability to leave the abusive relationship
  • A constant state of guilt that you’re not providing enough for yourself or your children
  • Being degraded by your partner for “using all the money”
  • Lowers your overall life prospects
financial abuse during divorce

What To Do About Financial Abuse During Divorce

Financial abuse is hard to recognize by others. It’s only apparent to the abuser and the victim because of the intimacy of the relationship.

Like emotional abuse, financial abuse does not leave outside marks or physical signs, so many people do not see the harm or when their loved ones are suffering from the abuse.

But what do you do about a form of abuse that goes unseen by everyone else? While financial abuse is difficult not only mentally for you, it’s also hard to escape!

Again, I am sorry to tell you that! I am not trying to be negative. There are ways to begin to pull away and escape from financial abuse during divorce, but it will take time. However, it’s not impossible!

Here are some steps you can take to break the financial abuse cycle!

Reach Out For Help

Since financial abuse is largely unseen and many people don’t believe it actually happens, you need to reach out to a trusted friend, family member, therapist, financial advisor, or a lawyer.

Financial abuse does not disappear on its own. It takes effort on your part and the recognition from others to give you support and also advice on what to do about it.

A trusted family member is mostly likely the best person to start with for understanding.

Depending on how severe the abuse is, family members can help you emotionally and also help you financially if they are able to.

While this is not an ideal situation for your family or you, it’s better than being financially controlled by financial abuse during divorce.

Separate Finances

If you have a joint checking or savings account with your spouse, (if you haven’t already), separate your finances!

Do not ask your spouse! If you are separated and no longer living together you no longer need to ask your spouse permission to use your own money for your or your children’s essential needs.

Go to the bank when you know your spouse will be at work or busy, and withdrawal money from the account and start a new account with only your name.

It is your choice as to how much money to take! While you could be mean and take every penny from your spouse, I personally would not suggest this!

This will only anger your abusive spouse and may cause your spouse to further lash out at you verbally, financially and even physically.

But you are entitled to your own money and deserve to not have someone control your life and what you do with your money.

Especially to the extent that you cannot take care of yourself and your children.

File For Separation/Divorce and Child Support

When you’re trying to get out of an abusive relationship and financial abuse, boundaries need to be displayed. Don’t think of this as a way to punish your spouse.

While you may feel extremely guilty about it, your paperwork needs to be in order with the courts.

This is especially true if you are a stay-at-home mom or only work part-time to support your children.

During the separation your spouse is still responsible for the financial care of your children.

Many spouses during separation will stop contributing to the welfare of their children simply because their spouse has left them. This is yet another abuse tactic!

Your spouse knows they can hurt you by removing financial help to you for the children.

What hurts the children ultimately hurts you, so the abuser has succeeded in that by not paying child support.

Immediately, get the courts involved! Financial abuse will not go away on its own and you will need to fight for the betterment of your children.

Your children don’t deserve to suffer because your spouse is petty and controlling.

Keep Records Of Everything

While you may not be use to keeping financial records, as they have been under the control of your spouse, keeping records now while going through a divorce is vital!

Financial records of what is going in and out of your accounts (both personal and joint accounts) show and prove financial abuse.

Remember: Financial abuse is not visible to the outside world. Therefore, it’s up to you to keep meticulous records.

Although no one can predict the future, it’s always best to prepared for anything.

It’s possible at some point that your spouse during a separation and/or divorce will do the following:

  • Remove large amounts of money from savings and joint checking accounts
  • Remove you from medical, car, and other insurances
  • Try to remove necessary items like vehicles from your possession
  • Leave you with little to no money (even if you have children)
  • Spend large amounts of money without your approval
  • Make large purchases for his/herself without consulting you (again leaving with little to no money)

It’s important to remember committing financial abuse toward another person is abuse. Plain and simple. So, it’s possible for the abuser to gain and keep control at all costs even if the financial abuse affects your children.

Final Thoughts

Financial abuse and emotional abuse tend to coincide together.

Although unseen, they make a victim feel powerless, shameful, and all around hopeless of their financial situation and their life.

This type of abuse like emotional and verbal abuse can affect a victim for years to come.

Not only does it lower the life prospect of the victim but can also leave psychological scars and a lasting impact that can affect a victim’s credit score and skyrocketing debt.

Although it’s possible to see the light at the end of the tunnel with financial abuse during divorce, it does take time and you cannot do it alone.

Reach out to friends and family, keep all financial records, and protect yourself and your children financially.

A divorce is one of life’s hardest aspects to go through, it only gets worse when your spouse is controlling and vengeful.

Financial abuse is more likely to happen during separation and is also more likely to occur if happening previously during divorce.

While your life is much different than before and even look hopeless at time, you’re not alone!

Finacial abuse needs to be documented and reported to your attorney, domestic violence advocate, and the courts.

Above all else, protect yourself by separating joint funds ASAP and rerouting all your pay checks to a separate account that your spouse cannot access!

This will not only protect yourself, but your children as well!

Works Cited

What is Financial Abuse? These Are the Signs… – One Love Foundation (

The hidden harm of financial abuse | FCA Insight

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