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Trying to Break Free From a Financially Abusive Spouse

When you think of abuse in a relationship, you may think of physical violence or even emotional trauma. What may not come to mind is financial abuse, but this is more common than you may realize, and it may result in long-term harm if you are the target of this behavior.

You may not consider yourself a victim of financial abuse, especially if your spouse has provided you with a nice home and other things you need and want. In fact, your friends may envy your lifestyle. However, when it comes to money, you may feel like a prisoner, unable to make decisions about spending for household items, let alone planning for a major change in your life, such as seeking a divorce.

Your ability to earn

Financial abuse is a way one spouse can control the other spouse. In fact, control over your ability to earn may be one way in which your spouse commits this kind of abuse. Your spouse may have forced you to quit your job, refused to allow your transportation to work, or harassed you at work until your employer let you go.

On the other hand, you may be the primary earner, and your spouse may still exact control by refusing to allow you access to the account where your paycheck is deposited.

More than just budgeting

This kind of behavior goes beyond that of many couples who decide together to scrimp and save. You may have had no choice in the matter, just as you have no choice in these situations:

  • Your spouse constantly monitors the bank accounts to ensure you are not spending money.
  • Your spouse uses your personal information to open credit accounts without your knowledge.
  • Your spouse has ruined your credit, which is a common tactic to prevent you from having access to funds on your own if you decide to leave the marriage.
  • Your spouse has eroded your confidence about money by ridiculing your requests for money or punishing you when you spend even the smallest amount.
  • Major purchases, such as the house, the vehicles, and investments, are in your spouse’s name only.

You may feel your spouse has the right to be careful about where the money goes if he or she is the primary earner, or you may trust your spouse to manage the money for the family. However, careful money management is not the same as financial abuse, which offers you no options and no sense of financial security.

If you want out of your marriage but are married to a financial abuser, you may feel you have no resources. However, the laws in California allow for fair property division. A skilled attorney can assist you in navigating your complex situation.