Overcoming the Financial Challenges of Divorcing an Abusive Spouse

The dynamics of abusive relationships make them difficult to leave. Many women who want to leave an abusive husband or boyfriend fear they can’t do so because they are financially dependent upon the abuser. Even if the woman has a job, she may have little control over her finances. Her abuser may have kept her in the dark about financial matters, or he may have control bank accounts and credit cards.

In a recent Huffington Post article, Jeffrey A. Landers, a New York divorce financial strategist, offered this advice to women who want to establish some financial security before they leave. (If you are facing physical abuse and are in danger, do not wait to take action. Contact a family law attorney for help with a restraining order immediately. After you are physically safe, then steps can be taken to financial support and marital assets.)

  1. Create a way that you can communicate with people privately. Get a personal email account that you only access at work. Get a cell phone that is not on your spouse’s plan and pay for it with cash, not credit.
  2. Open a bank account in your own name. Whenever possible, begin to make deposits into that account. Have bank notices sent to work or to a private PO box.
  3. Keep copies of important paperwork in a safe place outside your house – perhaps in a safe deposit box.┬áDocuments that you may later need include legal certificates, bank statements, and proof of marital assets.
  4. Get a credit card: Given the current credit situation, this may be difficult if you have been prevented from handling your finances in the past. You may want to first see if your new bank can assist you.
  5. Get a pre-paid debit card: Even if you can’t get a credit card, you can buy a prepaid debit card that can be used at local stores.
  6. Remove your name from joint accounts, if your name is on any accounts.
  7. Change your PIN numbers.

If you are not in immediate danger, consider the timing of each of these actions. Some will be more noticeable than others. An advocate at a local domestic abuse shelter can advise you and help you with these and other steps to freedom.