Societal expectations for men and women have come a long way since within the past few generations. With greater gender equality, educational opportunities and job options, both men and women are expected to contribute to the family finances, and manage their money in a responsible manner. Societal expectations, however, are not always a reflection of reality. Whether it be a result of the economic depression, cultural expectations, or being home for one's children, there are still many families with only one working parent, or one parent who is primarily in charge of the finances.
While the majority of financially dependent spouses are in their position by choice or lack of jobs/ skills, other individuals are trapped in a form of domestic violence known as “economic abuse”. In short, economic abuse refers to the act of making a person financially dependent, thereby making it difficult to extricate themselves from an abusive relationship. Examples of economic abuse include: 1) maintaining sole ownership of bank accounts and other marital properties; 2) Putting someone on an allowance or limiting access to marital funds; 3) forcing the victim to co-sign for loans and credit cards; 4) withholding account statements and other financial documents; 5) preventing the victim from getting a job or furthering his or her education.
This type of control over another individual is hard for some people to understand. The sad truth is that abusers often groom their victims for a long period of time through manipulative actions such as eroding their self-esteem and isolating them from family and friends. Over time, the victim is so isolated and brainwashed that he or she allows the abuser to take over their lives, including their finances. Even if the victim wants to leave, the abuser convinces them that they will not make it on their own without any money. It's also common practice for abusers to threaten that they will take off with the children, or get sole custody in court since they can afford to hire to hire a good attorney.
If you are in a situation of economic abuse, it's imperative to learn about your rights and legal options. The most important realization is that you are a victim of domestic violence under the state's laws. This means that you are entitled to a wide array of social and legal services, including women's shelters and legal advice. Legal representation is extremely important, since you will need to fight for your children, as well as access to money and properties. Our attorneys offer free consultations, during which you can obtain useful information such as how to file for a restraining order and requesting alimony during the divorce process. They can also help you file an order to request that your spouse pay your attorney fees, since the law entitles both spouses to adequate legal representation during the course of a divorce proceeding. For more information on how to fight back against economic abuse, please speak with the attorneys of Villani & DeLuca, P.C.