The Ray Rice incident has shed new light on domestic violence, and the Adrian Peterson incident has spurred a conversation on when punishing a child becomes child abuse. In both cases, if these incidents happened to parents under a court order or not, the law provides immediate remedies to insure the safety of the victim and the children.
But abuse can take other forms that do not leave visible scars. One such form of abuse – financial abuse – often remains invisible. But recently, actress Kerry Washington taped a public service piece to inform us all about its dangers.
Often in a marriage one partner earns significantly more than the other, leaving the lesser-earning partner financially dependent on the main wage earner. When the higher-earning partner also limits access to funds and even knowledge of accounts so that they remain unknown or untouchable to the lesser-earning partner, the roots of financial abuse have been planted. In this scenario, the extent of financial control can easily lead to financial abuse, and sometimes relate to subtle and not so subtle forms of domestic abuse. Partners in terrible marriages or relationships may feel “trapped” because they have become financially dependent on the abusing spouse or partner, and the prolonged sense of powerlessness has discouraged the victim from making a stand and leaving.
How can a partner or spouse avoid becoming the victim of financial abuse?
First, do not sign anything relating to finances without reading the full document and keeping a copy.
Second, insist on a joint checking account into which all wages are deposited.
Third, obtain a copy of the last joint tax return filed and take it to an accountant or tax attorney for assistance in deciphering where funds are housed. Information is power, and in order to act, one must know where all the household money sits.
Avoiding financial abuse requires a proactive approach from the beginning of the relationship, stressing equality in access to all funds and financial information.
If you have additional questions about financial abuse, contact St. Louis family law attorneys – we can help.