Who makes it? How is it accounted for? Who spends it? How are financial decisions made?
In successful relationships, people can easily answer those questions and they are satisfied with the answers. They know where they stand financially, together with their partner.
Financial abuse, however, means not knowing where the money comes from and/or not having a mutually acceptable agreement on how it is accounted for and/or where it is spent.
Indeed, in some relationships the money is a tightly held secret, and how it is spent may be a decision of only one person. Thus, the other person is at the mercy of the other. Assuming a kind and frugal partner, this may work for some folks. In fact, there were many relationships based upon the husband being the breadwinner and the mother the homemaker (think of Leave It To Beaver and Father Knows Best), where that arrangement was the norm. Those arrangements in these days and times are typically not successful.
Financial abuse may include one holding power and control over the other financially. By not knowing or having access to funds, a person’s life can be restricted.
Abuse may also occur when one overspends. In a marital situation, one is bound to the spending of the other. So the debts accumulated by the one partner are tied to the other partner.
Simply hiding funds from a partner with or without their knowledge is another form of financial abuse.
Couples are advised to at least know of each other’s income, ongoing balance and agree how joint expenses will be paid. This requires open communication.
Not uncommon where there is a family business, a partner may worry about money being hidden, and the value of the business as an asset to be divided by the couple.
If you are in the midst of or are thinking about a separation and you have concerns of financial abuse, consult a family law lawyer. There are many legal strategies a lawyer can advise of to protect you financially. For concerns about a family business, your lawyer can discuss with you the necessity of a forensic accountant as well as the use of a business valuator to determine the worth of the business as an asset to be shared.
If you are concerned for your safety or well-being and have not yet considered separating, you may find it helpful to speak with a counsellor.
You can consult a local woman’s shelter with concerns about financial abuse in your relationship and also address any safety concerns. You do not have to be a resident in a woman’s shelter to access counselling services.