What is financial abuse?
You may have been subjected to financial abuse during your relationship, and it may be continuing now that you have left.
This kind of abuse is common, and can take many forms, including:
- Your partner controls the money and makes all the spending decisions
- He gives you a spending allowance and you have to account for the money you spend by providing him with receipts
- The bank accounts and debit cards are in his name only
- He does not give you any information about the family’s financial situation
- You do not have any control over the credit cards
- He steals money from you
- He runs up debts that your family cannot afford to pay
- His income tax is in serious arrears
- He forces you to work and takes all the money you earn
- He won’t let you work and uses this as an excuse not to let you have any money
Common post-separation financial abuse tactics
- Your ex-partner maxes out the line of credit without your knowledge or consent or continues to accumulate debt in both your names
- He refuses to provide you and the children with any financial assistance
- He cuts off your access to any joint money (or empties joint bank accounts)
- He uses banking information to try to find you
- He interferes with your job in the hope you will lose your job and return to him because you have no money
Steps to take to protect yourself
There are some steps you can take, both when you are with your partner and after you leave, to protect yourself from his financial abuse.
While you are together
- Set up your own bank account, even if you can only put a small amount of money in it. This way, you will have your own account when you leave and, if you are working, can have your paycheques deposited into this account.
- Check in with your bank to ensure that you receive copies of any financial documents related to bank accounts, lines of credits or mortgages. You can make arrangements to have these documents sent to an address that is not your home.
- Find out as much as you can about your family’s financial situation.
When you leave
- Change the passwords to any online banking services you use. If the bank will let you, take your name off any joint accounts, lines of credit or mortgages.
- Either before or soon after you leave, begin to establish your own credit rating by applying for a credit card, then using it to make a small purchase and paying it off in full.
If your partner is a persistent financial abuser, you may not be able to manage him on your own. What you can do, particularly once you leave, is keep as much financial independence from him as possible and keep your personal and financial information private from him.
Ideally, you will have your own lawyer to represent you and assist you in making decisions about the financial aspects of your relationship.
Whether or not you have a lawyer, you may find the following online resources helpful:
- National Association of Women and the Law: “A Woman’s Guide to Money, Relationships and the Law in Ontario,”
- Steps to Justice
You may also find it helpful to connect with the following services:
- Family Court Support Workers and other legal services specifically designed for woman abuse survivors involved in family court
- Family Law Information Centres at family courts throughout the province
- Family Law Service Centres in some communities
- Legal Aid Ontario