What Is Financial Abuse and how to identify it?
Identify Signs of Financial Abuse with Monmouth and Ocean County NJ Lawyers
Financial abuse can most often be found in romantic relationships and marriages.
The abuse often happens gradually, making it hard to identify and even harder to escape. Women are the most vulnerable, but anyone can be at risk. Many people do not recognize financial abuse as a form of domestic violence. But in fact, nearly all physical domestic abuse victims report that their partner also uses financial control as a weapon. In fact, financial dependence is one of the main reasons many victims do not leave an abusive relationship.
Financial abuse can take many forms but is generally when someone maintains control over the couple’s financial resources. An abuser may use subtle tactics or more overtones. The abuser might spend money without permission, withhold access to money, or prevent someone from working. The abuser might block a person from accessing bank accounts or force them to cosign on a loan. Since the loan is cosigned, both the abuser and the victim suffer the consequences of late or missed payments, including damage to their credit score and any legal action for not paying the debt off.
What Are The Signs of Financial Abuse?
In many cases, financial abuse occurs gradually. It can happen without someone realizing — no matter the relationship. That is why it is important to know the signs of financial abuse. The sooner you can recognize it, the quicker you can guard against it.
Here are some of the signs to watch out for:
- You are not included in financial information or decisions. You don’t know what accounts you have, the spouse’s compensation structure, or where the money is located or spent.
- You are on a budget that your partner decided. A partner puts you on a budget or and gives you an “allowance.” Maybe you are regulated to a certain amount of cash every month, or your credit card purchases are under a watchful eye.
- You sign documents without knowing what they are. You might sign business forms, tax returns, and loan requests without knowing what they entail or even having a chance to read them. Sometimes you may know what the paperwork is for and are forced to sign them under duress.
- Your partner is using your money or property without your permission. They are stealing from you, spending your money on something you didn’t authorize. They may demand to use your credit card or force you to obtain a loan. They may change passcodes or close accounts that you previously had access to, opening new ones in either of your names.
- Your partner does not contribute to the partnership as agreed upon. You pay for all of the utilities, rent, and groceries. They don’t contribute to the household and are making no effort to do so.
- Your partner makes your career decisions telling you what your salary must be and when you can and cannot work. They frequently ask you for evidence of your income and demand that your salary be deposited directly into a “joint account” that they control.
What Are the Effects of Financial Abuse?
Financial abuse can have detrimental physical, emotional, and financial impacts, even years after the abuse has stopped. Victims of financial abuse may have difficulty keeping a job or finding a job due to their spotty employment history. This is often due to an abuser limiting them from attending work or school, interfering with their job, and causing job loss. Because of the abuser’s psychological tactics, a victim may feel less confident in their ability to secure a job, save money, and make a solid life for themselves.
If someone defaults on payments or takes out personal loans in your name, your credit score could be affected from a financial health perspective. When credit scores are harmed, it can take years to rebuild — making it difficult to buy things like a home or vehicle.
For most financial and domestic abuse victims, leaving the relationship is the healthiest and safest option for the long-term. Many abusers make it hard to leave the relationship. They might track your activity or prevent you from accessing your bank account. Still, there are ways to remove yourself from a difficult situation and rebuild yourself as a financially independent person.
- Be aware of and involved with financial decisions. If you are asked to sign the paperwork, understand what it is that you’re signing. If something seems out of the ordinary, ask questions, and pay close attention. Don’t make excuses for an abuser or obligate yourself to pay their loans, debts, or late fees.
- Ensure your personal information is safe. Change your passwords, bank pins, access codes, and credit card login information. Freeze your credit to make sure no one else can apply for credit or a loan under your name.
- Set aside some savings. If you can safely save money without your abuser knowing, sock away cash for your future life. Consider hiding cash and valuable items or opening a new bank account your abuser doesn’t know about.
- Work toward supporting yourself. Brainstorm different jobs you could do and develop the necessary skills. Don’t worry if you don’t have the means to support yourself yet. With time and the right resources, you will get there.
- Keep your credit safe. Every year, you can get one free credit report from each of the major credit bureaus. Dispute any errors or fraudulent activity on your report as soon as possible — ideally within six months of the occurrence.
Where Can You Get Help as a Victim of Financial Abuse?
The impact of financial abuse can be long-lasting, impacting credit scores and the ability to secure steady employment. But there is hope. There are ways to break away from an abuser and rebuild your livelihood. There are also good money habits you can put into place to build your overall financial strength. If you suspect someone you know may be a victim of financial abuse, there are ways to get help.
Consult an Ocean County Family and Domestic Violence Lawyer Today
If you are suffering from economic abuse and would like to talk to someone about your legal options, the Bronzino Law Firm, with our offices in Ocean and Monmouth Counties, is prepared to provide you with the information and assistance you need to stop your abuser from continuing to control your finances.
Our legal team of top-notch attorneys wants to help you return to a peaceful and secure state of mind. Please visit our online form or call us at (732) 812-3102 to learn more about your legal options.