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What is Financial Abuse?

What behaviors indicate financial abuse, how victims are impacted, and what you can do to combat the effects.

Most people picture emotional or physical abuse when thinking of domestic violence. However, there's an equally prevalent form of abuse that's harder to perceive because of what it uses as a manipulation tool. It's common in intimate relationships, whether people are dating or married, and it can persist or even worsen through and after a separation or divorce. Learn about one of the less visible forms of abuse that tends to create some of the most significant damage to its victims.

What is financial abuse?

Sometimes referred to as economic abuse, financial abuse is a form of domestic violence that leverages monetary resources. In these circumstances, an abuser will negatively impact a victim's ability to be economically self-sufficient, meaning their access to a steady income that funds their basic needs is inhibited. Along with the impact on their base expenses, a victim of financial abuse may also struggle with their financial wellness and stability.

Financial abuse is not a commonly recognized or recognizable form of domestic violence, but it's incredibly prevalent as an accompanying effect in most cases. A study conducted by the Center for Financial Security at the University of Wisconsin-Madison found that 99% of people who suffered emotional abuse also experienced economic abuse. While it's not a complete guarantee, it's highly likely that someone who experiences some form of emotional or physical abuse also encounters signs of financial abuse.

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How can someone be financially abusive?

A financially abusive person can use many manipulation tactics to control their victim's economic situation. While the warning signs of financial abuse can vary, the end goal is to isolate the person involved so they become financially dependent on their abuser. Depending on the approach and methods an abuser uses, VeryWell Family lists examples of evident and discreet ways an abuser can target different areas of a victim's life and economic health.

If your partner or abuser exploits your financial resources, they may:

  • Handle your assets or spend your money for personal gain
  • Rack up your credit card debts to lower your credit score
  • Demand control of your cards, paychecks, or accounts
  • Require financial support for their own bills and expenses
  • Offer guidance as a disguise to control your finances

In an effort to impact your employment, financially abusive people may:

  • Pressure you to quit your job and stay home instead
  • Restrict your career to specific industries or roles
  • Sabotage your ability to leave home and go to work
  • Distract you with calls or texts while you're working
  • Prevent you from searching or interviewing for jobs

A financial abuser who focuses their efforts on shared assets may:

  • Scrutinize your financial choices and demand explanations
  • Make significant financial decisions without consulting you
  • Prohibit you from spending money without their permission
  • Withhold financial information and resources from you
  • Have a double standard on how you each handle finances
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What are the effects of financial abuse?

While the severity of the effects depends on the degree of economic abuse, many victims experience similar effects. The National Network to End Domestic Violence (NNEDV) says people targeted by financial abuse often feel a lack of self-confidence and self-sufficiency due to the doubt their abuser projects. Because they lose access or control over any owned or shared assets, economic abuse victims become dependent on their abuser and struggle with becoming independent.

In addition to finding a correlation between emotional and financial abuse, the study from the Center for Financial Security identified several ways that victims of financial exploitation dealt with specific long-term effects. Economically abused people often experience employment instability, especially if their abuser interferes with their ability to start or continue working. Victims whose partners restrict their access to resources struggle with having stable, sufficient finances that can cover their necessary expenses.

How can co-parents experience financial abuse?

Some characteristics of financial abuse are similar in different situations, but co-parents can experience the same issues in unique ways. For a parent going through a divorce or separation, their ex may rack up debts on shared accounts and then have that debt allocated to them in the split. A co-parent's ex may withhold child support, even though doing so can violate their court order. If child support isn't ordered, their ex may fail to meet the obligations outlined in their parenting plan and force their co-parent to shoulder most or all financial responsibilities.

Combating financial abuse and how TalkingParents can help

Economic abuse can leave a lasting impact on victims, so it's critical to recognize the signs and take protective measures. For co-parents who have to continue sharing some financial connection with their children's other parent, protecting yourself from financial abuse is vital to your and your children's well-being. Here are 4 steps you can take to combat financial abuse from your co-parent and how TalkingParents can support your efforts.

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1. Isolate your financial accounts

Whether you had access to shared accounts or your ex had access to your own, ensure any assets you depend on are yours and yours alone. Open your own account or contact your bank to change your login credentials, and do not share your login information with anyone. Review your credit report to learn about any accounts or lines of credit that your ex may have opened in your name. Once you understand what assets are shared or impacted, you can begin regaining control of your financial wellness and independence step by step.

Even if you successfully split your finances from your ex, you may still want extra safeguards in place while managing shared expenses. With the Accountable Payments feature, you can handle joint parenting costs without disclosing your financial information. When sending money to your ex, they cannot see your bank account details. Additionally, each request and completed payment is timestamped and can include relevant information for each transaction, so you can settle shared expenses with full accountability.

2. Gather your important documents

If the financial abuse you suffered from your ex had significant impacts, you may need to take additional steps to re-establish your financial health by pursuing a new career or filing for government-sponsored benefits. In either case, gather original versions of any essential documents and store them where your ex cannot access them. If you can't get your original documents, make copies or write down the information for reference. By storing these documents away from your ex, you ensure you can apply for jobs or government aid without interference.

These essential documents may include your:

  • Driver's license
  • Social Security card
  • Health insurance information
  • Passport or other photo ID
  • Divorce papers or custody orders
  • Car title and registration
  • Health, home, and auto insurance

Once you have your documents in their original form or as a copy, storing digital versions in secure locations is helpful in case a set of copies is compromised. Your Vault File Storage in TalkingParents provides a space to store files in a secure format alongside other co-parenting features. While any documents in your Vault can be shared with others using an emailed link, your co-parent cannot access any of your files. Unlike your Attachment Library, your Vault is wholly isolated from files that may be sent through other features.

3. Notate instances of financial abuse

If you want to pursue legal action or file for a protective order against your ex, you'll need sufficient evidence and documentation of any acts of financial abuse. Because financial abuse is conducted through monetary manipulation, it doesn't always involve traditional ways of documenting abuse, like pulling past police records or pictures of damage done to your body, property, or home. Anything related to your financial situation and how your ex impacts it should be assembled and reviewed as potential evidence to present in court.

Relevant pieces of evidence may include:

  • Bank account statements
  • Credit card bills
  • Payment records
  • Tax returns
  • Mortgage deeds
  • Lease agreements
  • Investment information
  • Loan documents

Gathering documentation that qualifies as court-admissible evidence can be a challenging task, whether you're proving financial abuse or a combination of different types of domestic violence. If you use TalkingParents, you're one step ahead with your Unalterable Record. Any interaction within your account, from sent messages to financial transactions, is documented in your Records and can be exported in PDF format to work with a legal professional or present in court.

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4. Seek free or low-cost assistance

Navigating any form of abuse can be emotionally, mentally, and financially draining. Because many victims of financial abuse have limited resources, they often think they can't afford a lawyer or other types of assistance. Thankfully, there are many free and low-cost resources available for domestic violence survivors. Many legal professionals offer pro bono services, and other family law attorneys specifically provide free assistance to victims of domestic violence. Additionally, resources like DomesticShelters.org offer ways to find shelters, programs, and other services that support your recovery.

When every dollar counts, a co-parenting communication service can seem like another expense to be paid. TalkingParents is a cost-effective tool that offers helpful features with three different plans, including a free one, so you can choose what best fits your needs and budget. If your needs change, you can change your plan and are never locked into a long-term subscription. Using TalkingParents can also help you save thousands in attorney's fees if you seek legal guidance.

For parents combating financial abuse, finding a balance between economic independence and effective co-parenting can feel like a never-ending struggle. Taking your journey one day and one step at a time is essential for preserving and repairing your and your children's well-being. By combining your recovery efforts with TalkingParents, you can better control your financial wellness and move forward with accountability.

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