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Financial abuse is when someone takes away your access to money, manipulates your financial decisions or stops you from being financially independent. Financial abuse is an underreported form of family violence, yet its impacts can be devastating and debilitating. Financial abuse restricts a victim’s capacity to leave abusive relationships and establish their independence.

Financial abuse begins with small offences that slowly become more controlling over time. Financial abuse takes on many forms and can look different for each victim. In a recent joint study into financial abuse in Victoria, Good Shepherd Australia New Zealand and Wyndham Legal Service identified a number of ways that financial abuse may present.

  • Limiting a woman’s access to work, either by making employment untenable through consistent harassment or not allowing her to work;
  • Controlling household finances and refusing to grant access to sufficient funds, or
  • Forcing or coercing women to take out debts, loans and/or credit cards either jointly or solely in her name, where she does not have sufficient capacity to repay this debt.

Impact of Financial Abuse

A recent study found that the difficulties of obtaining financial independence represents one of the most significant obstacles for women seeking to leave abusive relationships. The practical difficulties of extricating joint financial and legal arrangements restrain victims’ capacity to leave violent relationships.

The practical impacts of financial abuse can include poor credit histories – as a result of being forced to take out loans for their partner, bearing the burden of significant debt with limited receipt of benefits, or increasing the difficulties of finding employment due to sparse or erratic work histories.

Each of these can restrict a woman’s capacity to meet the basic needs and could also result in victims being compelled to stay with, or return to, an abusive partner for financial security.

Law Reform

RLC is acutely concerned with the impact of financial abuse on vulnerable women, having directly observed its demoralising effect upon vulnerable and traumatised women. RLC strongly encourages governments, financial institutions, telco, utility and other essential service providers, to consider how they could develop and implement policies that will provide practical and accessible remedies for women experiencing financial abuse. In the absence of effective policies and process, these organisations often entrench the effects of the financial abuse and compound the difficulties of leaving violent relationships.

Gowland Legal calls on governments, financial institutions and service providers to implement practical policies and strategies which remove arbitrary barriers to leave abusive relationships.


If you suspect that your partner is financially abusive, seek help. Financial abuse is not something that gets better with time. In fact, it often escalates and can lead to other types of abuse.

If you need assistance with a family law matter or to speak with a lawyer about a family law issue, contact the team at Gowland Legal on (02) 9569 3000.