Financial abuse can be just as common as physical or sexual abuse, but you can be financially abused without even realising it.
In the recent case of Testa v Fields, the court, while making a decision about the best interests of a child, addressed concerns of family violence by the father to the mother.
The court accepted that by denying the mother access to their bank accounts, he was financially abusing the mother. The court labelled this as controlling conduct. The father also cut the gas and electrical connections to the granny flat where the mother was living.
This determination of financial abuse follows an earlier decision of Rankin v Rankin.
Here, Mrs Rankin was solely dependent on Mr Rankin for all of her expenses. To meet these expenses, the husband had given the wife credit cards to use, which he paid off. After the couple separated, he cancelled her credit cards, and additionally, cancelled the phone and internet services to the house, failed to meet the mortgage payments and pay assessed child support. The court determined this to be financial abuse, as Mr Rankin’s actions left his wife unable to support herself and their children while they were financially dependent upon him.
Also known as economic abuse, financial abuse is a form of domestic violence, under s12 of the Domestic and Family Violence Protection Act in Queensland, and s4AB of the Family Law Act.
It involves someone controlling you through money without your consent.
Financial abuse can take on many forms, not just withholding money. These include:
- Having limited or no access to bank accounts;
- Being unable to meet normal household expenses because you are financially dependent on someone else;
- Being prevented from seeking or keeping employment; or
- Being forced to take out a loan for someone else.
A financially abusive person may do things like:
- forging your signature on cheques or legal documents;
- withdrawing or transferring large amounts of money from your bank account;
- using your credit card;
- cancelling or hiding bank or credit card statements;
- using bill, rent or mortgage money for something else;
- selling your property without your knowledge or consent.
What are my options as a victim of financial abuse?
As financial abuse is a form of domestic violence, you may be entitled to obtain protection by way of a domestic violence order (DVO), which may cease the financial abuse.