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Unequal Partners? Financial Abuse and Divorce in NSW

Financial abuse is a form of domestic violence that can significantly impact family law matters, including divorce and separation, in Australia. It involves controlling a person’s ability to acquire, use, and maintain financial resources, thereby trapping the victim in a situation of dependency and undermining their autonomy. In the context of Australian family law, recognizing and addressing financial abuse is crucial, as it can affect the outcomes of divorce, property settlements, and spousal maintenance.

Definition and Examples of Financial Abuse

Financial abuse can take many forms, including but not limited to:

  • Withholding access to bank accounts or money
  • Preventing a partner from working or studying
  • Controlling how all household income is spent
  • Running up debts in the other person’s name without their consent
  • Stealing or destroying personal belongings or assets

This form of abuse is not always easily recognized, as it often occurs in conjunction with other forms of domestic violence, including physical and emotional abuse.

Impact of Financial Abuse on Family Law, Divorce, and Separation

Property Settlements: Financial abuse can significantly impact the division of property and assets during a separation or divorce. Australian family law seeks to ensure that property settlements are fair and equitable, considering the contributions of both parties to the marriage, including non-financial contributions and the impact of financial abuse.

Spousal Maintenance: In cases where financial abuse has left one party financially disadvantaged, the court may order spousal maintenance. This is a financial support paid by one party to the other following separation to help the recipient support themselves. Spousal maintenance will usually require that an inability to support oneself adequately must be demonstrated, such as caring for a child, health issues or insufficient income and that the other party actually has the capacity to provide that support, with minimal impact on their ability to support themselves.

Child Support: Financial abuse can also affect child support arrangements. The primary concern is the well-being and financial support of the children involved. Australian law requires both parents to financially support their children. it is important to keep in mind that the Family Court generally will not make orders for child support. It is rarely done. The Court only has power to make child maintenance orders pursuant to the Family Law Act 1975, where a party cannot apply for child support under the Child Support (Assessment) Act 1989 (see section 66E of the Family Law Act 1975).

 Legal Protections and Remedies

Australian family law offers several protections and remedies for survivors of financial abuse:

  • Injunctions: The court can issue injunctions to prevent a party from engaging in financial abuse, such as selling assets without consent.
  • Urgent Spousal Maintenance: For immediate financial needs, the court can order urgent spousal maintenance while the case is being resolved.
  • Property Settlement Adjustments: The court can make adjustments to the division of property to account for the impact of financial abuse on the survivor’s financial position.


Seeking Help for Financial Abuse

Survivors of financial abuse facing divorce or separation are encouraged to seek legal advice and support. The Family Law team at Koffels Solicitors & Barrister can provide guidance on how to address financial abuse in legal proceedings.

Recognizing financial abuse and understanding its implications in the context of family law is critical for ensuring that survivors receive the support and protection they need. Australian law provides mechanisms to address and mitigate the effects of financial abuse during divorce and separation, aiming for outcomes that are just and equitable.

If you’ve been impacted by Financial Abuse, we can help – you can either call our office directly on 02 9283 5599 or complete the form below, and financial abuse specialists will call you back:

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