Keeping a death grip on finances is one more way a domestic abuser gains power and control.

3 minute read

Does your partner or spouse insist on maintaining complete control of household finances? Maybe he – or, less frequently, she – restricts your access to bank accounts and withholds access to investments or other important financial information. If so, you may be the victim of a financial abuser.

Financial abuse is nearly always a tactic used by an abusive person in a domestic violence situation. In fact, research shows that financial abuse occurs in roughly 99% of domestic violence cases, according to the NNEDV.

Financial abuse is “one of the most powerful methods of keeping a survivor trapped in an abusive relationship” according to the National Network to End Domestic Violence (NNEDV), a resource for information and training and assistance to organizations against domestic violence.

That’s because an abusive person’s tight control of finances inhibits the victim’s ability to get out of the relationship or stay safe after leaving an abusive partner.

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1. No access to bank and credit accounts

If your spouse is the only one in the marriage with access to joint bank accounts, credit cards and online account passwords, even though you’ve asked for access, that’s a sign of financial abuse. Without access to joint funds or credit, the financial abuse victim feels trapped in the abusive relationship with few options for leaving the abuse.

Find out: 6 Money Conflicts That Can Lead to Divorce

2. A tightly controlled “allowance”

If your partner simply allots a certain amount of money to you for household spending as part of your mutually agreed-upon budget, that’s not necessarily the action of a financial abuser.

However, if your partner restricts your access to household funds, doling out an “allowance” each week or two for which you must account for every penny, that’s a common tactic used by financial abusers. The allowance may even start out as a seemingly loving act, with your partner offering to handle all the finances because you’re under a lot of stress.

“This scenario commonly leads to the abuser giving the victim less and less in ‘allowance,’ and by the time the victim decides she or he wants to take back control of the finances, she or he discovers that the accounts have all been moved or she or he no longer has knowledge or access to the family funds,” says the NNEDV.

Find out: 6 Ways Marriage Financial Counseling May Head Off Divorce

3. Your partner forbids you to work

Financial abusers frequently demand that a spouse or partner quit working so that person has no income of their own. That way, the victim can’t save enough money to leave and start a new life. If you do have a job, the abuser may sabotage your employment by forcing you to miss, leave or be late to work or by stalking you at the workplace.

Often, a woman “does not leave an abusive relationship because she fears she will not be able to provide for herself or her children,” according to the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services’ Office on Women’s Health (OWH).

Find out: How to Hide Money From Your Spouse

4. Extreme monitoring of spending

Both people in a relationship keeping track of spending for budgeting purposes is a good practice for saving and managing money. But when one partner demands a receipt for every cup of coffee you buy and a detailed accounting of everyday purchases, that’s too much control and one of the hallmarks of a financially abusive partner.

Find out: 7 Strategies to Save Money on Your Divorce

5. Running up unpaid debt on your credit

A financially abusive partner may force you to open credit cards under your name that you’re not allowed to use. Then the partner charges large amounts of debt on the cards that he or she refuses to pay. Meanwhile, you’re responsible for paying the debt but may have no income or access to bank accounts or household funds. As a result, your credit score suffers.

Once you leave a financially abusive relationship, it’s important to take steps to protect your credit. “By freezing your credit accounts or having a credit bureau issue a fraud alert, you can make it harder for someone to open accounts in your name,” says the OWH.

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About the Author

Deb Hipp

Deb Hipp

Deb Hipp is a full-time freelance writer based in Kansas City, Mo. Deb went from being unable to get approved for a credit card or loan 20 years ago to having excellent credit today and becoming a homeowner. Deb learned her lessons about money the hard way. Now she wants to share them to help you pay down debt, fix your credit and quit being broke all the time. Deb's personal finance and credit articles have been published at Credit Karma and The Huffington Post.

Published by Debt.com, LLC