How to Break Yourself Free from a Financially Abusive Spouse

Financial abuse is real and hurts families in a severe way. Here's how to break free.

March 25, 2021

Like other forms of abuse, financial abuse is about control. One spouse has taken control of their finances, rendering the other one helpless and under their power. If you feel you may be the victim of a financially abusive spouse, it’s time to call an Orange County divorce attorney.

What Is Financial Abuse?

Financial abuse is an invisible form of domestic violence. Unlike physical abuse that leaves scars, this kind of abuse is subtle—sometimes unrecognizable until significant damage has been done. In many cases, a financially abusive spouse is also emotionally or physically abusive.

Narika reported that the number one reason individuals return or stay in an abusive relationship is that the abuser controls the finances. In fact, financial abuse occurs in 98% of all domestic violence cases.

If you feel trapped in an unhealthy relationship, contact an Orange County divorce attorney.

Financial abuse has many disguises. It occurs when one spouse prevents the other from working, or they succeed in getting them fired through no fault of their own. Often, they take control of the finances and do not allow their partner access.

In order to overcome financial abuse, a person must recognize its existence.

The Signs of Financial Abuse

These are the specific warning signs that a spouse is financially abusive:

  • Make their spouse account for every penny they spend and constantly monitor the bank accounts.
  • Limit access to financial resources.
  • Open up credit cards and accounts in the other’s name without telling them.
  • Damage the victim’s credit score by running up bills and never paying them.
  • Put large, joint purchases, such as the house and vehicles, in their name only.
  • Force their spouse to quit their job or rely on their spouse for total financial support.
  • Limit access to the bank account that the paycheck is deposited in.
  • Minimize their spouse’s financial plans or decisions and berate them when they spend even the smallest amount of money.

Ultimately, a financially abusive spouse gains control over their partner, limiting resources, and making it difficult for them to leave.

The manipulation, intimidation, and demanding nature of the abuser leave the victim feeling powerless. Eroded self-confidence breeds the inability to make a decision and find a way to leave—just what the abuser intended.

If you, or someone you know, is a victim of financial abuse, contact an Orange County divorce attorney immediately, and take the following steps.

Steps to Take if You Are a Victim of Financial Abuse

If you, or someone you love, is a victim of financial abuse, it’s time to take the necessary steps to distance yourself from the abuser and find the road to financial freedom.

  • Talk to Someone You Trust

Abuse of any kind results in diminished self-esteem. Ultimately, it perpetuates fear and doubt, leaving the victim unable to break away.

The first step is to talk to a trusted family member, counselor, minister, or Orange County divorce mediation attorney.

The National Domestic Violence Hotline helps victims find the resources they need to break free.

  • Separate Fact From Fiction

As with other types of abuse, the perpetrator will try and make the victim feel as if it is their fault. They have no financial sense, are inept at planning for future occurrences, or simply don’t understand the complicated aspects of money management.

A financially abused spouse will often hear one or all of these false accusations.

Unfortunately, after months or years of continued denigration, an abused spouse will begin to believe that their spouse really is the best money manager. If they are also the primary earner, a spouse may feel as if they cannot have a say in how the money is spent.

If you have no sense of financial security, do not have access to funds, and feel that you cannot purchase anything without your spouse’s consent, it may be time to talk with an Orange County divorce attorney.

  • Gather Important Documents

If an abuser feels that their spouse may be considering leaving them, their first step is often to hide important documents.

It is essential that you gather birth and marriage certificates, social security information, passports, investment, and insurance documents, make copies, and store them in a safe place out of the home.

  • Protect Your Assets

Open a bank account in your name. Cancel joint accounts and change passwords.

Keep an eye on your credit report to ensure your spouse has not opened up additional accounts in your name. If they have, this is a crime and can be reported to the local police department.

  • Make Plans to Leave Safely

While it may take some discreet planning on your part, take the steps required to get you and your family to a safe location. Financial abuse is insidious and can leave more unseen scars the longer it is perpetuated.

Look for ways to put some money aside that your spouse is unaware of.

The Office on Women’s Health (OASH) offers contact information and a safety plan that can help victims leaving an abusive relationship. Staying safe is always the top priority.

Keep in mind that abuse is not always perpetrated by the male in a relationship.

  • Contact an Attorney

California is a community property state. This means that any assets or debt acquired while living with a spouse is considered community property and is to be divided equally between divorcing spouses.

This includes residences, pension plans, retirement accounts, businesses, cars, and other physical assets. One spouse may also be entitled to a child or spousal support.  

Choose the Right Divorce Attorney

In the case of financial abuse, it’s important to speak with a lawyer about seeking a restraining order and obtaining temporary spousal or child support help.

You may qualify for temporary financial support without filing for a divorce.

Our team can assist you and your family come up with the best solution. We can help you devise a safe exit strategy and obtain the necessary documentation that propels you to an independent life.

Contact our legal team at the Law Offices of Hollie A. Lemkin today.

Call today to speak with Hollie A. Lemkin to discuss your questions & issues!

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