Economic and/or financial abuse can have a devastating impact on a victim and may accompany other forms of domestic abuse. Unfortunately, this type of abuse is increasing, possibly due to the cost-of-living crisis, sociocultural factors, and changes in the home or workplace, which are the results of the covid pandemic and digital technology.

Solicitors can help to identify conduct that is considered economic or financial abuse and help you to take action in cases of suspected or actual abuse.

Economic abuse under the Domestic Abuse Act 2021

Economic abuse can involve various forms of conduct used in a relationship as a way of exercising control over a person, sometimes without the victim even realising it. Essentially, it involves controlling the financial resources of a person’s life which is typically designed to make them feel isolated and dependent on the abuser, which in effect can prevent or deter the victim from leaving a relationship.

Although economic abuse has always existed, it has only recently been acknowledged in law. Real change for victims and survivors is possible because economic abuse is now recognised as a form of domestic abuse under the Domestic Abuse Act 2021.

Section 1 of the Act defines economic abuse as “any behaviour” that has “a substantial adverse effect” on the ability of someone to whom the perpetrator is personally connected to acquire, use, or maintain money or other property; or obtain goods or services. The Act defines “personally connected to” quite widely, however, this type of abuse is most commonly found among husbands and wives or common law partners.

Financial abuse under the Care Act 2014

Financial abuse is also noted as a form of abuse in Section 42 of the Care Act 2014 and includes:

  • having money or other property stolen
  • being defrauded
  • being put under pressure in relation to money and other property
  • having money and other property misused

Examples of economic/financial abuse

Economic and financial abuse can take many forms depending on the circumstances of the abuser and victim. The perpetrator may use the abusive conduct to shame, control, or make the victim dependent on them; and/or the victim may be taken advantage of financially, often due to some vulnerability.

Examples of economic/financial abuse include:

  • Having income sabotaged
  • Preventing somebody from working and earning income
  • Being excluded from making financial decisions
  • Controlling or denying access to money
  • Preventing access to necessities such as heating, clothing, and food
  • Scrutinising receipts for purchases
  • Sudden changes in bank account behaviour or large withdrawals
  • Signatures on bank cheques or other documents that do not look like a vulnerable person’s usual signature
  • Withdrawals from cash machines at times or places that do not make sense or are not possible for the account holder
  • Abrupt changes of wills or new wills that leave a substantial amount to a new friend or carer

Impact of economic abuse on family law matters/divorce

Economic abuse is an important element in family law and can directly affect how a divorce case is handled. Someone who has a history as an economic abuser is likely to make the divorce process challenging by hiding certain assets or failing to make full disclosure of their income, bank accounts or marital assets. They may have assets undervalued or change their personal circumstances to deliberately deprive the other partner of funds or sources of money.

Family law solicitors with experience in these cases have training in how to provide the best advice to victims and direct them to appropriate resources. They can ask the court for certain orders, for example, that the abusive partner leave the family home, freezing orders to prevent the sale of the family home or disposal of other assets, or interim maintenance orders to help the victim financially while the case is ongoing.

Conclusion

The terms financial or economic abuse are generally used to describe behaviour that violates an individual’s rights relating to their financial affairs or assets. Economic abuse is now recognised in law and there are safeguards and resources available for victims.

If you or someone you know wants more information or needs help or advice, please contact us on (01904) 217225 or (020) 36332301 or (0161) 3273677 or email [email protected].