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Financial abuse and divorce, part one

Money is an inevitable concern for nearly every couple that is contemplating divorce. The financial cost of dividing a family from one household into two, as well as court costs and attorney’s fees, can be a tremendous burden for cash-strapped families. However, for victims of “financial abuse,” money can be an insurmountable obstacle to divorce, forcing spouses to remain in unhealthy relationships.

According to Jeffrey Friedman, executive director of a non-profit that offers assistance to victims of domestic abuse, there is a very close correlation between financial and physical abuse. Because domestic violence is motivated by the need for power and control, he says, financial abuse is just one of the methods by which an abuser will ensure that his spouse is under his control. In addition, by maintaining absolute control of the household finances, his spouse will remain financially dependent on him and unable to leave the abusive marriage.

Spouses who are the victims of financial abuse usually have few options for removing themselves from the situation. The abusive spouse may prevent the victim from getting a job, opening a checking account or credit card, spending money on anything but necessities, or having any knowledge of the household finances. In addition, the abuser may be hiding money or assets or digging the victim into deep debt.

As a result, the victim may be financially unable to leave the abusive situation. However, there are several steps that a victim can take to secure their finances and gain financial independence. We will discuss those in detail in a second post later this week.

Source: Forbes, “Divorce Advice For Physically And Financially Abused Women,” Jeff Landers, Sept. 21, 2011

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