Australian divorce lawyers are becoming better at understanding financial abuse, and it’s making a difference to the lives of women who have suffered real money loss and inequity at the hands of a controlling partner.
Julie Kun the chief executive officer of WIRE Women’s Information in Victoria, said traditionally women affected by financial and domestic abuse will walk away with nothing from divorce settlements out of fear, but this is slowly changing.
“There are some women who do walk away but we are seeing more lawyers who understand abuse and safety needs, and they have been able to get back significant sums for women who may have originally not tried for anything.”
Julie added that one divorce lawyer in Melbourne has been able to get a total of $300,000 more for her clients in one year out of divorce settlements.
“In addition to lawyers, financial counsellors and family violence workers are also becoming aware of the tactics of financial abuse as a result some women have been able to get support to recoup money lost as a result of the financial abuse or limit the ongoing financial damage,” said Ms Kun.
This is money that these women would have otherwise walked away from out of fear that challenging for what they might actually be entitled to could lead to further abuse.
It’s estimated that two-million Australians are victims of financial abuse, and generally domestic abuse at the hands of a partner or another family member.
Economic abuse affects both men and women.
In 2017 researchers from RMIT found the life-time prevalence of economic abuse for women is 15.7 per cent, while for men it’s 7.1 per cent.
Financial abuse takes many forms all of which involve one person trying to have control over another. Common examples are:
• Not being allowed to view bills or financial statements.
• Not being able to make small financial decisions such as buying groceries or a cup coffee.
• Being denied access to working or control of your own income.
• Having the purchase of basic consumer items used as leverage or control to do other things such as favors or forced into sex.
It’s estimated that 49 per cent of men and 41 per cent of women have experienced some form of violence over the age of 15 years.
For men, this violence was mostly at the hands of a stranger but for women it was by someone they knew, says the Australian Bureau of Statistics.
Research indicates that financial abuse, at the hands of one partner over another, in intimate relationships is widespread and common in Australia.
While men are also affected by financial abuse, the number of cases are dominated by women who generally earn less than men, may be perceived as being less financially educated, and take more time off to care for children.
Financially bullying is a form of domestic violence which each year costs the economy $15.6 billion, according to the National Council to Reduce Violence against Women and their Children (NCRVWC).
“Often women do not access support services, or indeed even recognise financial abuse as a form of family violence, it is reasonable to conclude that this is a significant but hidden problem across the community, affecting women from all socio-economic, cultural and geographical groups,” said Ms Kun.
For more information contact WIRE on available supports for women regarding family violence 1300 134 130 www.wire.org.au or call 1800respect.For men, contact the men’s referral service on 1300 766 491 or visit www.mrs.org.au.