Domestic abuse and violence encompass a range of abusive behaviors, including emotional abuse, physical abuse, psychological abuse, and financial abuse. Financial or economic abuse is often much harder to notice compared to other types of abuse, but it can have a significant impact on the individual. Economic abuse can limit a spouse’s freedom and force them to endure significant hardship.
The process of a divorce is complex and emotional enough already. If you are a victim of financial abuse, you may feel powerless and unsure of how to address it during a divorce. For some spouses, it can be difficult to have the control and finances to file for divorce. It’s essential to understand how economic abuse affects the divorce process.
Understanding Economic Abuse
In Kansas, economic abuse is considered a form of domestic violence. Economic abuse occurs when one spouse controls their spouse’s access to money and resources or uses their finances without their permission. This is done to have power over their spouse. Often, economic abuse is coupled with verbal or emotional abuse. Although economic abuse commonly impacts divorce proceedings when it occurs between spouses, close family members and those who are living together can also be financially abusive.
Because financial abuse can be more subtle, spouses may not always realize that they are victims of this form of domestic violence.
Signs of Economic Abuse
Economic abuse is often varied, and it may appear alongside other types of domestic violence or by itself. Signs of an economically abusive spouse include:
- Preventing a spouse from accessing marital accounts
- Controlling a spouse’s personal bank accounts or credit cards
- Withholding a spouse’s paycheck
- Refusing to let a spouse earn their own income
- Withholding money or assets from a spouse
- Denying a spouse any say in financial decisions
- Refusing to pay for basic family necessities
- Maintaining their own personal accounts
- Moving assets and finances to hide them from a spouse
- Accusing a spouse of being financially incompetent
- Hiding the value of marital assets
- Forcing a spouse to sign financial papers that they don’t understand
- Using marital assets to make large purchases without a spouse’s input
- Adding debt to shared accounts or a spouse’s account
- Increasing debt in a spouse’s name
- Requiring a spouse to justify any purchases made
- Forcing a spouse to request money to buy specific things
Financial abuse can start as a minor problem and grow over time until a victim has no control over their own assets and feels completely dependent on the abusive party.
How Economic Abuse Affects the Divorce Process
Economic abuse, once proven in court, can change several aspects of divorce, including spousal support, property division, child support, and child custody. The court is unlikely to rule in the abusive spouse’s favor during the divorce settlement.
During asset division, a spouse who has been financially abused likely does not know the scope of marital assets owned. For this reason, the formal discovery process is a useful tool to ensure that the abusive spouse is not hiding any separate or marital assets to alter how property is divided. An attorney can help determine what tools are needed from the formal discovery process to prove that the spouse has been financially abusive.
Q: Does Financial Abuse Affect a Divorce Settlement?
A: Financial abuse, like other forms of domestic violence, is not viewed favorably by family courts, and it can affect all aspects of a divorce settlement. Under equitable distribution laws, proof of financial abuse may provide the abused spouse with a greater share of marital assets. It may also lead to the abusive spouse paying child support and spousal support. If the financially abusive spouse tries to hide assets to avoid these payments, the discovery process has tools to uncover them. There are civil and criminal penalties for attempting to hide assets.
Q: How Do You Prove Economic Abuse?
A: Economic abuse may be proved in divorce court by using:
- Financial documents. These may include tax returns, bank account statements, investment and insurance account statements, loan applications, transaction information, and titles of vehicles or homes.
- Witness testimony. Third parties, such as friends and family who have noticed an abusive spouse’s controlling behavior, can provide useful evidence.
- Expert testimony. Mental health professionals can speak to the effect of financial abuse on the victim, and financial professionals can provide insight into how a couple’s assets are managed.
A family law attorney can investigate your case, gather evidence of financial abuse, and use their resources and professional connections to find hidden assets or provide expert testimony.
Q: What If My Spouse Is Hiding Money in Our Divorce?
A: If you suspect that your spouse is hiding assets during divorce proceedings, a formal divorce discovery may be necessary. Because Kansas is an equitable distribution state, the value of each spouse’s separate property will impact the division of marital assets in litigation. If a spouse hides assets, they may receive more than their share of marital assets.
Discovery is the exchange of financial information between spouses and their attorneys, and it is a part of every divorce. However, in uncontested and collaborative divorces, spouses voluntarily participate in an informal discovery process. Formal discovery is court-ordered and can use several legal tools to find hidden assets, such as interrogatories, requests to produce documents, and deposition hearings.
Q: How Does Adultery Affect Divorce in Kansas?
A: Adultery is not grounds for divorce in Kansas, as there are no fault-based grounds for divorce, only the no-fault grounds of incompatibility. However, adultery may impact other aspects of divorce, such as spousal support and division of property. In cases where adultery was grossly extreme, the court may decide that spousal support payments are needed to penalize the spouse who cheated.
When dividing property, the court looks at several factors to determine what is equitable. Although adultery is not one of these factors, any marital misconduct that affects marital assets is a factor. If a spouse paid for gifts for their other partner with marital assets, the court will likely lessen the amount of assets that the cheating spouse retains.
Get Support From Experienced Legal Counsel
If you are suffering from economic abuse, it can feel like you have no control. The sooner you begin to work with legal counsel, the sooner you can get a full understanding of your legal rights and how to defend them. The attorneys at Stange Law Firm can help you file for divorce and build your case. Contact us today.