Economic Abuse

What is Economic Abuse and How to Prevent It

While going through your divorce did you recently discover credit card balances in your name that you were unaware existed?  Are their home equity loans that exist that you don’t recall signing off on and you have no idea what the funds were used for?  Has your credit been damaged as a result of the actions of your spouse?  These scenarios are not uncommon and are examples of economic abuse. Follow our tips to avoid being a victim of economic abuse and plan ahead for your pending separation.

Obtain and Track Your Credit Report

An economic abuser often will take out loans and credit cards in the victim’s name without their knowledge and run them to the limits.   Failure to protest these amounts promptly can result in these debts being classified as marital or otherwise deemed to be done with your consent.   If these debts are not being paid timely, you will suffer adverse credit consequences which ultimately can affect you securing housing, transportation, or a job after your divorce is finalized.

If you suspect your spouse is taking out credit in your name, obtain your credit report, review it and promptly report any unauthorized transactions.  Close any accounts which were opened without your knowledge.  Catching this behavior on the front in may be the only opportunity you have to save your credit score.

Plan Ahead by Setting Aside Your Own Money

Often a victim of economic abuse will be at a disadvantage during separation and any necessary litigation due to not having access to funds while the abuser is using marital resources to fight the case.  It is always wise to save money in an individual account if possible to prepare for representation, emergency funds, and housing during a period of separation.  Joint accounts are marital and you are entitled to remove funds equally with your spouse.

If all of the marital accounts are only in your spouse’s name, that is a huge red flag that needs to be addressed immediately.  While you likely have not waived your rights to these accounts if they are not in your name, it may require a court order for you to access the funds in these accounts.

Browse the Internet with Your Search History Disabled

Almost all browsers have an option to browse privately.  Use it.  Search history is a very common way to find out what your spouse may be up to, whether it is nefarious or in the interest of self-preservation.  If you’re contemplating a divorce and don’t want your spouse to know until you’ve completed your preparation, disable your search history.  If you’ve already entered searches without disabling your search history, delete your search history and other data.

Collect and Store your Personal and Financial Records in a Safe Location

Birth certificates, social security cards, vehicle titles, passports, driver’s licenses and credit/debit cards are items in which possession may be required for their use.  Without these items, you may not be able to obtain loans, apply for housing, obtain a passport, operate a vehicle, or purchase necessities.  If you’re planning to separate, having access to these items and preventing unauthorized access by your spouse can be the difference between leaving and being forced to remain in an abuse relationship.

Be Aware of your Financial Situation and Create an Inventory

This cannot be stressed enough.  If you can do so safely, stay abreast of your family’s financial situation.  If you go years without knowing your financial status, assets can be diverted, wasted, or converted and your attorney will spend significant time and money trying to trace what happened with these assets.  In some cases, your consent will be presumed by a court of law for pre-separation transactions.  When you decide that separation is inevitable, begin tracking your assets as soon as possible.  The Wake County Equitable Distribution Inventory Affidavit is a form you can use to track and identify potential assets at stake.

If you’re a victim of economic abuse in North Carolina contact us today.  We can help navigate financial issues and ensure that your rights are protected.

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