When we got married I had some savings, a job and a car. The marriage is over and I’ve got nothing.
Many people do not have access to finances in their relationship. If the relationship breaks down, they often find themselves without any money, or may not even know how much money they are entitled to.
What defines financial abuse?
The law in Victoria states that financial abuse is a form of family violence. Family violence is when one person uses power and control over another. Family violence is a repeated pattern of behaviour, and can occur between partners or other family members. Many people think of family violence as either physical injury or emotional abuse. However, withholding money, controlling the household spending or refusing to include you in financial decisions can be defined as family violence. Financial abuse can be present with other forms of abuse, like physical or emotional abuse, but can also be present without these other behaviours.
Financially abusive behaviours include:
Controlling a family member’s money:
- Taking control of someone else’s finances (e.g. being in charge of all the household income and paying the other person an allowance)
- Controlling how all of the household income is spent
- Forcing a family member to claim social security benefits like Centrelink
- Making a family member be the guarantor on a loan or taking out a loan in their name
- Making a family member take out a second credit card
- Forcing a family member to work in a family business without being paid
- Filing fraudulent insurance claims
- Forging a family member’s signature on financial documents
- Taking money out of a family member’s pension
- Selling a family member’s possessions without permission
- Misusing an Enduring Power of Attorney
- Forcing a family member to change their Will
Stopping a family member from earning their own money:
- Stopping a family member from getting a job or going to work
- Stopping a family member from going to work or important meetings by keeping them up all night or physically hurting them
- Stopping a family member from studying
- Stalking or harassing a family member’s colleagues
Limiting a family member’s access to money:
- Not giving a family member access to bank accounts
- Denying a family member access to money so they can’t afford basic expenses like food or medicine
- Destroying, damaging or stealing property
- Racking up debt on shared accounts or joint credit cards
- Withholding financial support like child support payments
- Refusing to work or contribute anything to the household income
- Gambling away a family member’s money or shared money
Who can experience financial abuse?
Anyone can experience financial abuse. It can occur no matter your age, where you live, your occupation, your abilities or disabilities, your sexuality, your gender, your religion, your ethnicity, your skin colour, your residential status, your education, your social class, whether you live with your partner, whether you have children or whether you are in a monogamous relationship, have more than one partner or if you are no longer in a relationship. Financial abuse can also occur in other family relationships. This can be between parents and children, between relatives or in any family-like relationship such as with carers or housemates. Although it can happen to anyone, like other forms of family violence, the vast majority of violence is perpetrated by men against women.