Domestic Violence and Financial Abuse

Statistics from the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence show that nearly 1 in 4 women experience domestic violence, and of women experiencing sexual violence, over half experience it in their own homes. So why don’t they just leave? Domestic violence has many layers that make it difficult for victims to seek help. Stigma and lack of awareness in helping professions (police, doctors, etc) are two factors, but often victims stay in violent relationships over fear for their children’s safety and security. They may also worry about their finances.

Domestic violence encompasses many forms of abuse – sexual, emotional, psychological, physical, and financial. While less commonly understood than other forms of abuse, financial abuse is one of the most powerful methods of keeping a victim trapped in an abusive relationship. Lack of financial resources can impact a person’s ability to petition for children, can interfere with jobs, and can reduce access to lifesaving medical assistance.

In a study by Worthy, a majority of women surveyed said their biggest financial fear regarding divorce was living on one income.

Financial abuse comes in many different forms. The most common form is when an abuser exploits the resources of their victim. Some examples of this exploitation include:

  • Trying to control use of or access to money earned or saved
  • Using assets for personal benefit without asking
  • Taking money or using credit cards without permission
  • Borrowing money or making charges without repaying it
  • Demanding that you turn over your paycheck, passwords and credit cards
  • Using offers to help budget as a cover for gaining control over finances
  • Confiscating paychecks or other sources of income
  • Intercepting or opening bank statements and other financial records

Abusers can also attempt to interfere with their victim’s jobs in hopes of reducing their income, threatening their job stability, and negatively impacting their self-sufficiency and mental health. Some examples of job interference include:

  • Criticizing and minimizing a job or choice of career
  • Pressure to quit a job
  • Sabotaging or not honoring a partner’s work responsibilities
  • Work harassment by calling, texting, or stopping by
  • Work prevention by hiding key or interfering with a method of getting to work

​While threatening job stability can lead to loss of wages, many abusers do it as a form of psychological abuse, a way to make victims feel powerless, even if they have a job they are good at and would otherwise enjoy.

Another form of abuse can be when an abuser tries to control shared finances. This can include:

  • Criticizing financial decisions and reducing a partners freedom to plan or budget as a result
  • Making large financial decisions without input; being unwilling to collaborate
  • Hiding or taking funds and putting them in a private account
  • Establishing unrealistic limits or allowances for a partner’s usage
  • Withholding financial information such as account passwords
  • Threatening to cut a partner off financially

“I know you’re under a lot of stress right now so why don’t you just let me take care of the finances and I’ll give you money each week to take care of what you need.”

While GLS can assist with many legal matters directly related to domestic violence such as Injunctions for Protection, U-Visas for Immigrant Victims of Domestic Violence, Divorce (Dissolution of Marriage), and Spousal and/or Child Support, we can also assist with many related matters, including:

Housing Stability

  • Evictions and Section 8 terminations
  • Negotiation with property owners/landlords to provide more time for relocation
  • Affirmative cases to force public housing authorities and management companies to comply with federal law and regulations and their own policies and procedures
  • Affirmative cases and counter-claims to enforce the rights to accommodations for tenants with disabilities
  • Fair Housing Act and Mobile Home Act claims
  • Foreclosure defense in order to stay the process to apply for loan modification and pursue mediation (where available), as well as to raise affirmative defenses and claims, and avoid personal deficiencies.

Financial Stability

  • Wage claims
  • Tax issues
  • Affirmative cases, and defenses and/or counterclaims where clients have been defrauded or been victims of deceptive practices
  • Affirmative cases and defenses and/or counterclaims to assert contract rights or to defend against contract claims
  • Debt collection cases to protect clients’ income and assets or address abusive or illegal collection practices
  • Cash flow and budget analysis with feedback to support necessary financial changes and new goals

Human Rights & Immigration

  • Employment rights
  • Discrimination
  • Public benefits
  • Access to education
  • U Visas
  • VAWA and 751 Waivers
  • T Visas

In 2017, GLS helped 410 victims of crime, and 1382 clients struggling to maintain financial stability. You can learn more about our family law/domestic violence unit here, and our financial stability unit here.

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