Family Law Library

Financial Abuse

financial abuse

Australian family law and the family law courts recognise the close connection between family breakdown and family violence, and the resultant impact this has on victims of family violence – both adults and children.

Often when we hear references to family violence, our minds instinctually think of ‘violence’ in the traditional sense and behaviours such as:

  • Physical abuse (such as hitting or pushing someone);
  • Sexual abuse; or
  • Emotional and/or psychological abuse (such as yelling or insulting someone, undermining their self-worth or humiliating a person).

Australian family law legislation provides a wide interpretation and definition of the term ‘family violence’ and The Family Law Act and the family law courts recognise financial abuse (or economic abuse) as a form of family and domestic violence.

Financial abuse (or economic abuse) occurs when you are unreasonably denied financial autonomy that you would otherwise have had, and are denied any control over your personal and/or the relationship’s finances. In many cases, this type of abuse is subtle and not obvious, and can be difficult to recognise. Financial abuse can also manifest slowly over the course of a relationship – steadily ‘creeping up’ until it becomes ‘the new normal’.

Some common examples of financial abuse include (but are not limited to):

  1. Being denied financial autonomy and control of your own finances (e.g. a spouse/domestic partner taking complete control of the relationship’s money and finances).
  2. Being provided with inadequate funds and having money withheld to meet your (and your children’s) reasonable living expenses. This is especially the case in circumstances where you are entirely or partially dependent on your spouse/domestic partner for that financial support.
  3. Being constantly monitored, harassed and questioned about what you spend money on.
  4. Having access to your bank accounts and credit/debit cards restricted or blocked.
  5. Being forbidden to work and earn income of your own.
  6. Having your pay taken from you and your access to it restricted.
  7. Being made to feel that you are irresponsible and incapable of handling money.
  8. Your spouse/domestic partner refusing to work or contribute to household expenses.
  9. Your spouse/domestic partner incurring debts in your name (this is related to identity theft).
  10. Being forced to sign financial documents (such as mortgage documents or personal loans) without being allowed to read or consider them.

Financial abuse is often accompanied by other forms of family violence, such as verbal abuse (e.g. angry outbursts and threats of violence), as well as physical abuse. Experiencing financial abuse can be just as damaging as physical abuse, and the affected family members often aren’t aware of how to seek and access support.

Our accredited family law specialists are available to assist in matters involving family violence and financial abuse, along with all other facets of your family law matter. If you would like to speak to one of our family law specialists about any of your family law issues, please contact us on (03) 9804 7991 or email enquiries@mflaw.com.au for a free telephone consultation.