Trying to Break Free From a Financially Abusive Spouse

Financial abuse is a form of domestic violence. It is often a means of controlling or asserting power over the victim. Keeping the victim financially dependent on the perpetrator can trap him or her in the relationship. If you believe your spouse is financially abusing you, it may seem impossible to break the cycle and leave. Luckily, help is available for people in your situation. Regain your freedom and financial independence with a few key steps.

Recognize a Financially Abusive Spouse

The first step in escaping a financially abusive situation is recognizing you are in one. Most victims of financial abuse, as well as other types of domestic violence, struggle to recognize the signs because they are too close to the situation. Living with a spouse and dealing with abuse for years can make it more difficult to recognize the actions for what they are. Look out for red flags of financial abuse to determine if your spouse is guilty of this crime.

  • Preventing you from working
  • Stealing your money
  • Restricting your access to bank accounts
  • Giving you an allowance
  • Refusing to let you have credit or debit cards
  • Withholding money for necessities such as child care
  • Making you explain every cent you spend
  • Manipulating your feelings
  • Demanding you hand over paychecks or credit cards
  • Intimidating you into submission
  • Lashing out or getting abusive when asked about money

If you believe your spouse is guilty of financial abuse, take action. You do not have to continue living as a victim of this crime. Financial abuse often goes hand-in-hand with other types of domestic violence, including verbal harassment, threats, physical abuse and emotional abuse. Do not remain in a toxic or violent relationship. Get help right away.

Tell Someone

Financial abuse does not leave physical marks that everyone can see. It is up to you to talk to someone about your situation. Confide in someone who can help you get out of your abusive relationship. This could be a trusted friend or family member or a professional in financial abuse. Calling the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-(800)-799-SAFE could connect you to counselors with experience helping people in your situation.

Protect Your Assets

If you have access to your accounts and can do so safely, transfer your money, paychecks, savings, inheritance, etc. into a separate bank account that only you own. Keep copies of all bank statements, as well as important documents such as Social Security cards, birth certificates and passports. Also gather important phone numbers and addresses of helpful friends. Change your PINs and passwords to something your spouse will not be able to figure out.

Get Out

Safely escape a financially abusive situation by calling on resources for assistance. First, try to save enough money to be able to leave the house. One domestic violence victim, for example, returned one grocery item she knew her husband did not like (and therefore wouldn’t miss) per week until she had enough to pay for a bus ticket. If you have no money, contact someone who can loan you enough for a bus ticket or who can at least give you a safe place to sleep. Locate a domestic violence shelter in your area if you have nowhere else to go. Leave your home when it is safe to do so and go to a place your spouse cannot find.

Request Legal Help

Once you are safely away from your spouse, contact an attorney for further assistance. A lawyer can help you take out a restraining order against the spouse, as well as connect you to resources such as temporary alimony or child support. Alimony could provide money from your spouse to help you pay for job training or other means of achieving financial independence. You do not have to file for divorce to qualify for temporary financial support. A lawyer can help keep you and your family safe while laying the groundwork for a financially stable future without your spouse.