Money, Power, Control: How Finances Affect Abusive Relationships

Posted by Joseph Lento | Dec 30, 2022 | 0 Comments

There's some pretty compelling evidence that couples who pool their respective paychecks or combine their finances in other ways (say, each contributing to a joint savings account, but maintaining separate checking accounts, or sharing credit cards) are actually happier together than couples who keep everything economic completely separate from one another. That applies when it comes to both banking accounts and liquid wealth.

But is the opposite true? Is there any correlation between a couple's ongoing conflicts surrounding money and an abusive relationship? It's a question that's crucial to answer, and a problem that we must address.

For Richer or Poorer

Money is a tricky subject for everyone, and it can drive a wedge into even relatively healthy marriages. If a couple starts out on the wrong financial foot—say, one or both partners lie about their income or their debt or neither one wants to even discuss money—the prognosis for their happiness can be grim indeed.

A recent study found that fully 10% of Americans admit to being afraid that a financial discussion with their partner will lead to a fight. Even more startling, half of us have kept a money-related secret from our spouse, likely motivated by the same fear. The Institute for Divorce Financial Analysts calls this “financial infidelity.” It can be as damaging to a relationship as romantic or sexual infidelity—if not more so.

Do Economic Issues Cause Abuse?

Is there a correlation between a couple's economic conflicts and domestic violence? It can be difficult, if not impossible, to single out such direct causes, experts say. However, financial abuse frequently co-occurs with other types of abuse (such as emotional, social, verbal, or physical). Abusers use money, or the lack of it, to control their partner by:

  • Withholding money altogether and restricting access to financial accounts
  • Handing out an inadequate or barely adequate “allowance”
  • Demanding to see all receipts or approve even small expenditures
  • Running up the spouse's debt or deliberately ruining their credit to keep them independent

Would you believe that 70% of those experiencing intimate partner abuse are forbidden by their abuser to work? When an abused person doesn't have ready access to any money, let alone enough to support themselves and any kids they have, it is exponentially more difficult to leave the relationship.

In these situations, it doesn't really matter if the couple is well-off, comfortable, or dirt-poor.

The First Step Might Be a PFA

Even when your hands seem to be tied, financially speaking, there is still help and hope available for those in abusive circumstances. A lot of times, the first step is a protection from abuse order, aka a PFA. It's a courageous move to make, but it can also be complicated.

Trust the LLF Law team to guide you through the process and answer all of your questions about financial matters.

At the LLF Law Firm, we are dedicated to helping families find and achieve what's best for everyone. Call us at 888-535-3686 or click here to send us a message.

About the Author

Joseph Lento

"I pride myself on having heart and driving hard to get results!" Attorney Joseph D. Lento is a veteran of one of the nation's busiest family courts with nearly 20 years' experience passionately helping families. By day, he worked in the trenches of family court, and at night, he studied the law. He helped countless families while working at family court, and he went on to become an attorney, dedicating his law practice to continuing the work he started years earlier. Mr. Lento's experience both behind the scenes and on the front lines allows him to understand a client's family law matter from all angles, and allows him to find and employ the most effective strategies to get favorable outcomes for any client. Joseph D. Lento is licensed in Pennsylvania New Jersey, and New York, and is admitted pro hac vice as needed nationwide. In the courtroom and in life, attorney Joseph D. Lento stands up when the bell rings!


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