Law Office of Stephen W. Penn and Associates

What is financial abuse?

Like other forms of relationship abuse in California, financial abuse can and does occur across all racial and ethnic groups, at all educational and socioeconomic levels and can victimize either women or men. However, according to the National Network to End Domestic Violence, it is a less commonly understood form of abuse despite being among the most prominent forms, occurring in 99 percent of domestic violence cases. 

If you are a victim of financial abuse, your spouse or partner restricts your access to money, making you dependent upon him or her for your livelihood. The abuser then uses this dependence to manipulate and exert control over you, making it more difficult for you to leave the relationship. 

Sometimes the abuse may be overt. The abuser may prevent you from working at all or dictate where you are allowed to take a job. There may be a family business in which the abuser forces you to work without pay. Another overt tactic is attempting to sabotage your job prospects by physical violence that prevents you from going to work or attending job interviews, or by intimidation tactics, such as harassing or stalking you while at work in an attempt to negatively affect your performance to the point where you lose your job. 

In other cases, the abuse may be more subtle. Your spouse or partner may go behind your back to hide assets from you, steal your identity or hurt your credit score by refusing to pay bills. He or she may offer to take care of the finances for you while affording you a weekly or monthly allowance to cover your expenses. This may seem like a loving gesture of concern at first, until your allowance is no longer sufficient to cover your expenses and you find that the abuser has cut off your access to the household accounts. 

Financial abuse is a powerful weapon used to force victims to stay with their abusers. One of the most commonly cited reasons for staying in an abusive relationship is an inability to provide financially for oneself or one's children after leaving. However, if you are the victim of financial abuse, help is available to you. 

The information in this article is not intended as legal advice but provided for educational purposes only.

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  • SCBA | Santa Clara County Bar Association | EST 1917
  • State Bar Of California | California Board Of Legal Specialization | Stephen W. Penn
  • Henry P. Collada Memorial Award 2012