Abusive/domestic violence relationships are difficult to leave due to financial obligations. Many women who want to leave a violent husband or boyfriend are afraid to do so because they are financially dependent upon the abuser. Even working women may have very little control over her finances as domestic violence is about control. The abuser may have kept her in the dark about financial matters or he may control bank accounts and credit cards for exactly that reason – to maintain control.
Advice to women who want to establish some financial security before they leave: If you are facing physical abuse or domestic violence of any kind and are in danger, do not wait to take action. Contact a family law attorney for help with a restraining/protective order immediately. After you are physically safe, then steps can be taken to obtain financial support and divide marital assets. Other steps to take include:
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. Open a post office box.
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.
Keep copies of important paperwork in a safe place outside your house- perhaps in a safe deposit box. Documents that you may later need include legal certificates, bank statements and proof of marital assets.
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.
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.
Remove your name from joint accounts, if your name is on any accounts.
Change your PIN numbers, on-line identification numbers and passwords.
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.
If you need the assistance of an attorney, please contact Phoenix-area divorce attorneys Lasiter & Jackson.
Source: Huffington Post, “Seven Steps to Protect Your Assets When Leaving an Abusive Marriage,” by Jeffrey A. Landers, divorce financial strategist, October 31, 2011.