Like domestic abuse, economic or financial abuse is not confined by socio-economic class or race or religion and that means you could be at risk of financial abuse. And like domestic abuse, victims aren’t always female. It happens to men too.
My current guest, Wendi is smart, educated and played an integral role in her husband’s medical practice. Yet during her divorce she found herself without access to any of the marital funds. Here’s Wendi:
I’m really good with money and so I made sure our bills were paid and we didn’t have any interest payments.
Later on when I refused to be this enabler of his public image and told him I’m was not going to go to his speeches anymore, that I was not going to make all these public appearances with him, then because he’s so narcissistic he tried to control me or punish me. He and the female accountant took me off signing checks at the office. All of our money came in through the office. So I had access to zero money.
Then, at about the same time I had inherited $70,000 from my father. I had to use some of that to stay afloat. That’s also the emotional abuse. I had bought us a cruise to the Mediterranean and at the last minute, he decided not to go, but the boys and I did. When I came back is when all this happened. It was the financial abuse. I virtually had no source of income or money since I worked at the office and didn’t have an independent job.
At one point our house went into foreclosure. I had always paid the bills, paid our business credit card and our two personal ones off every month, so there was never a balance. And I paid our mortgage and our utilities. Well, he’s not good with managing money and he just didn’t pay bills. He didn’t pay the mortgage for like four months so our house went into foreclosure and luckily it was when you could get out easily not like 2010 or 2011 where if you went into foreclosure, you’re over. And then the utility companies were calling to disconnect our utilities and then I’d have to sell something to go pay them.
We accumulated a lot of interest on our credit cards. I don’t know if he didn’t have the money or if he just didn’t have the ability to handle paying bills like I did. Our credit cards were totally paid off during our divorce, so we started anew with our credit cards but this was all a part of the financial abuse. I think he was planning on leaving me, but he wanted me to have a lot less funds to live on or pay bills with.
This is all while we were still married, before he left.
Pre-divorce I had nothing. I couldn’t even go to the grocery store. I could use my credit card, but I had no cash. I felt rich after my divorce. I felt so rich. I could go to the store. I didn’t have to sell jewelry to have spending money. I just felt wealthy. Of course I wasn’t at all, but it’s just the change because I had my own money that I could manage. I felt wealthy before I got married. I wasn’t, of course, but I felt like I had my own apartment and car and I could cover my expenses and save and I could do that again. I bought a car.
You can’t see emotional and financial abuse like you can physical abuse. So, if you don’t get hit and you don’t have a black eye, sometimes even if you’re educated you miss that the other types of abuse are very valid.
The Divorce Coach Says
I’m a big believer in both spouses keeping credit cards and bank accounts in their own names, in addition to joint accounts for shared expenses and not as a precautionary measure in case the marriage does end. This is about financial responsibility and self-responsibility.
For anyone whose marriage is troubled, even if you are working on your marriage, this is important. In fact, how your spouse reacts to you wanting a bank account and credit card in your own name would be very telling. If your spouse objects, it’s a red flag about whether you should be trying to salvage your relationship.
If you’re considering divorce then tread carefully. If your spouse learns of your new accounts you could be alerting them to your plans before you’re ready and you could find yourself without access to any funds. When you do go to open an account understand where the institution will send correspondence. You may want to use a P.O. Box or work address instead of your home address. Without your own account or credit card it can be very difficult to pay for any resources that could help you through prepare for divorce and that will make it harder to leave.
Opening a credit card in your own name is key because it will give you access to a line of credit that you may need to use to retain an attorney if your spouse closes off your access to the joint accounts. Using the card judiciously, paying off the balance promptly will help you develop a credit history in your own name. That’s important for post-divorce. Your credit score is considered in many situations including, applying for a mortgage, leasing a home, qualifying for a car loan, and even opening utility accounts.
Wendi Schuller is the author of The Woman’s Holistic Guide to Divorce. Read more about Wendi’s book and follow her blog at her website.
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