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Financial Abuse in a Relationship

Financial Abuse in a Relationship

In a study by RMIT University, 16 percent of Australian women and 7 percent of men will experience financial abuse in their lifetime. Chatswood Family Lawyers understands that financial abuse can leave victims feeling isolated, vulnerable and anxious. Victims who initially leave their abusive partners commonly return back to them for better financial stability, safety and security because they found it difficult to access money, credit cards and other financial assets to sustain themselves by purchasing essential items and/or to pay rent.

With many families suffering from job losses due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many people have reported experiencing financial abuse for the first time. Financial abuse can take a huge toll on one’s emotional, physical and psychological wellbeing and when left unsolved can lead to someone being broke, in debt and even homeless. Therefore, it is important to identify whether you are experiencing financial abuse.

What is financial abuse

Financial abuse involves one partner in a relationship controlling and/or manipulating the other partner’s ability to make financial decisions, to obtain paid employment, to access money, or using the partner’s money without permission.
Open communication, mutual respect and honesty are key contributors to a healthy financial relationship. This is where both partners are equally involved in making financial decisions in the relationship, accessing monies and discussing future financial goals.

Whilst there may be some relationships where one partner may bear the weight in managing the relationship’s finances, this does not generally mean it is financial abuse.

How to identify financial abuse

The nature of the financial abuse can vary between relationships. Whilst behaviours such as verbal and physical threats about monetary matters may be obvious, some abusers may utilise more covert tactics such as manipulation to get what they want.

The abusers behaviours may start off appearing insignificant such as refusing to take ‘no’ for an answer when it comes to monetary matters and then it will escalate to more substantial behaviours. A few examples of what financial abuse can look like include:

  • Taking charge of all of the relationship’s finances and giving the other partner an ‘allowance’
  • Controlling and/or demanding reasons for why money was spent
  • Forbidding employment and educational opportunities and forcing the partner to obtain social security benefits like Centrelink
  • Interfering with the partner’s ability to go to work or to work from home
  • Demanding or intimidating the partner to guarantee a loan or obtain a loan in their name
  • Demanding or intimidating the partner to take out a second credit card for their usage
  • Demanding or intimidating the partner to purchase things they do not want or need
  • Forcing the partner to perform certain tasks to ‘earn’ money
  • Denying access to bank accounts and cash
  • Refusing to work or contribute financially to the household income
  • Gambling away the money earnt by the partner
  • Ignoring the partner’s opinions on major financial decisions and making them feel incompetent in their thoughts.

Effects of Financial Abuse after Separation

We understand that leaving a relationship can be difficult, especially when financial abuse has jeopardised a partner’s economic self-sufficiency which has resulted in their weakened ability to act independently and to access healthcare and education.

In some circumstances, leaving a relationship may also mean carrying the legal burden of the debts incurred by the perpetrating partner as a result of financial abuse. This may have serious consequences on the victim’s ability to obtain legitimate and necessary loans for financial security and to secure future opportunities.

For some couples after separation, the perpetrating partner may also undermine the victim’s ability to work and mask income and hide assets in order to not have to pay spouse maintenance and child support. This is also considered financial abuse as they are burdening the victim with increasing legal costs.


If you believe you were or are currently experiencing financial abuse, contact our Family Law Accredited Specialist today on (02) 9412 4500 to discuss your options to protect yourself and your family.