January 2019 | Ariza Arif

The Family Law Act recognises financial abuse as a form of domestic and family violence. It is defined as:

unreasonably withholding financial support needed to meet the reasonable living expenses of the family member, or his or her child/ren, at a time when the family member is entirely or predominantly dependent on the person for financial support”.

Financial/economic abuse, similar to emotional and psychological abuse, can be difficult to recognise and it can affect anyone.

The general hallmarks of financial abuse are as follows:

  1. Restricting your access to money
  • Bank accounts are primarily controlled by the other party;
  • You have an allowance that only meets basic living standards;
  • You are financially dependent on the other party and do not have access to money;
  • Being made to feel that you are incapable of handling money, so the other party has to be in control of the finances;
  • Information of your joint finances are being withheld from you;
  • Being pressured and/or forced to sign financial or loan documents before you’ve had a chance to read them for yourself. Abusers will commonly say “trust me, you don’t have to read it, just sign” or “if you love me, you will sign”.
  1. Tracking your spending
  • The other party requests receipts to see all of your spending;
  • Having to constantly ask for permission to spend money;
  • If you overspend, you feel there will be negative consequences;
  1. Restriction on work options for you
  • Not being allowed to apply for a job and if you do mention it to the other party, it’s met with “don’t worry, I earn enough for the both of us”
  • If the other party does want you to work, typically it is not in the career you would choose for yourself;
  • The other party consistently prevents you from applying for job opportunities;
  1. The other party refuses to work
  • The other party refuses to work, yet incurs excessive debt in joint names, which ties you to them;
    • For example; the other party might ask you to get a personal loan in your name or credit cards solely in your name.

The underlying primary objective of financial abuse is control.