Financial Abuse

money problems

My spouse will not share our household financial information with me. What should I do?

If you aren’t being permitted to see account and credit card statements, banking information or joint tax returns, or are living on an allowance that is doled out by your spouse as they see fit, you may be a victim of financial abuse.

What is Financial Abuse?

Financial abuse, as defined by the Office on Women’s Health of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, is when “an abuser takes control of finances to prevent the other person from leaving and to maintain power in a relationship.” The abuser may take control of all the money, withhold it, and conceal financial information from the victim. The victim in some cases may even be the breadwinner. Financial abuse often occurs in physically and emotionally abusive relationships.

According to Stacy Francis, CEO and founder of Francis Financial, as well as the non-profit Savvy Ladies, the goal of the abuser is to manipulate, intimidate, and threaten the victim through finances in order to entrap the other person in the relationship. Getting one’s finances in order and becoming financially literate can help the victim understand the severity of the situation, how to get help, and ways in which they can achieve financial independence.

What does financial abuse look like?

Financial abuse can take many forms, but some examples that indicate your spouse or partner might be abusing you financially include:

  • Trying to control your access to money, either by insisting they have access to your bank account or obtaining passwords to the financial accounts and refusing to share them with you.
  • Putting all of the financial accounts/loans/mortgage in his/her name alone.
  • Not allowing you to have your own credit cards or bank accounts.
  • Withholding money from you or requiring you to ask for money each time you need it.
  • Controlling whether or not you can work.
  • Dragging out divorce proceedings in an effort to hurt you financially.

IMPORTANT: If you believe that you are being financially abused, take stock of your situation. Are you a victim of domestic violence? Are you also being verbally and physically abused? If so, take steps to get out of the situation as soon as possible. Most of all, it is critical to do everything you can to keep yourself and your children safe, and to protect your emotional well-being during this stressful time.

Please read my recent article in Psychology Today for more information and for resources that can help.

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