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FINANCIAL ABUSE: DOMESTIC ABUSE ISN'T JUST PHYSICAL

Think of the phrase "domestic violence." Which particular images come to mind? Odds are, the horrific and terrifying images we have all seen in movies and television are some of the first that spring to the forefront. While these terrible events do happen in real life, there are also other not so conspicuous ways in which abusers can harm their victims. The National Network to End Domestic Violence defines domestic violence as "a pattern of coercive, controlling behavior" that can include "physical abuse, emotional or psychological abuse, sexual abuse, or financial abuse." Domestic violence is a tragic situation no matter how you look at it; it can leave victims feeling hopeless and afraid, and leads couples down terrible paths that can include trauma, psychological damage, medical fees, and divorce lawyer fees.

Follow the Money

Most people are familiar with the types of behavior associated with physical or emotional abuse. But not everyone understands that they way in which finances are allocated or controlled can also be classified as abuse. But what does financial abuse look like? It may include some of the following behaviors:

  • Stealing money from you or your family
  • Forcing you to give over access and control of your bank accounts
  • Insisting you have no right to be informed about any details about finances or resources
  • Withholding funds or providing an "allowance"
  • Forcing you to work for a family-owned business for little or no pay
  • Hiding assets from you and your family
  • Maintaining complete control over how all money is allocated/spent
  • Forbidding you to work or attend job-training/advancement opportunities
  • Forcing you to turn over paychecks, public benefits, or other financial assets such as bonds, property, or stocks
  • Forcing you to write bad checks/file fraudulent tax returns
  • Refusing to contribute to the family income through work or other means
  • Overusing your credit cards or refusing to pay bills (both of which can destroy your credit)
  • Withholding funds for necessities such as food, shelter, medication, or child care
  • Forcing you to agree to give him/her power-of-attorney so he/she can sign legal documents on your behalf

The Almighty Dollar

Many people don't realize the type of havoc an abuser can wreak on a victim's financial affairs. In fact, maintaining control over finances can actually be the most devastating weapon that abusers can wield. Without financial assets or independence, it is much more difficult for victims of abuse to escape from the situation. Having no access to money or assets can mean that victims wishing to escape have no ability to secure safe and affordable housing for themselves and their families. The threat of becoming homeless is very real for some victims of abuse. In the long term, things like ruined credit scores and sporadic employment history can make it extremely difficult to find employment, secure a home, buy a vehicle, or apply for a loan. If there are children involved, the situation becomes even more serious, and fears about homelessness or difficult circumstances can keep victims from leaving or can cause them to return to abusive relationships.

Victims of domestic abuse aren't without hope. There are several agencies who exist to provide assistance to victims of abuse and can help to get them and their families back on their feet. If you are a victim of financial abuse, then it may be time to consider contacting a divorce lawyer and terminating the relationship. While divorce can be an uncomfortable and trying experience, you don't have to go it alone. Contact Cummings Law Firm; we are ready to help you today.

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