Birmingham AL Collaborative Divorce Law Blog

Monday, January 30, 2017

Strings Attached: Financial Abuse Defined

Four Strategies to Put Into Action

Although it often goes undetected, over one in 12 Americans experiences financial abuse.[1] It is often tied to cases of domestic violence, but can also occur in situations in which there is no other violence or abusive conduct. According to the National Network to End Domestic Violence, “financial abuse, while less commonly understood, is one of the most powerful methods of keeping a survivor trapped in an abusive relationship and deeply diminishes her ability to stay safe after leaving an abusive relationship.” [2]

With no resources in his or her own name to rely upon, the victim may feel helpless to take any action. Seven out of eight women who leave an abusive relationship will go back because of financial abuse.[3]

Although those with less education and job skills may more often become victims, financial abuse affects individuals across all socio-economic groups. A spouse who holds all the assets in his or her name, refuses to provide access to joint accounts or keeps close tabs on all outgoing funds may be committing financial abuse.

Taking Action

According to a 2014 study commissioned by the Allstate Foundation, one in five Americans knew of someone who had been a victim of financial abuse.[4] So what can you do if you or someone you know is in this type of relationship? Here are four ways to find relief.

  1. Get immediate help. Professional resources are available for those who are specifically experiencing financial abuse. These include:,,, or the National Domestic Violence Hotline (1-800-799-7233). These clearinghouses can connect you with a variety of resources, including financial education, housing, counseling, legal aide and more.
  2. Repair the damage. In less severe cases, couples counseling or mediation may be a way to begin to repair the damage and develop new and healthy ways of managing your family’s finances.
  3. Learn your rights. Learning one’s legal marital rights will help you ascertain options. An honest discussion with a skilled family law attorney can clarify whether financial abuse is occurring, what one can do to find relief and — if necessary — the steps to take to separate or divorce.
  4. Create an exit plan. Even after separation or divorce, it may take time to reconcile the effects of financial abuse.  Developing an action plan is often the initial step to financial freedom. For example, the victim may need to go back to school to gain a degree in order to support her family, or a credit history may need to be established before he can buy a home. Your attorney can help you sort out your options and apprise you of your legal recourse.

Becoming financial independent may not happen over night, but with resources and proper guidance, you can go from powerless to empowered.

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