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Six Ways to Combat Spousal Financial Abuse

Many people are aware of the horrors of physical abuse in families. But did you know that financial abuse can be just as devastating? Financial abuse takes place when one individual takes control over another's finances, assets, work, and education in a relationship.

It is one of the most powerful tactics an abuser can use over his or her victims to make them feel trapped, vulnerable, and hopeless. In Illinois, financial abuse is commonly afflicted on the elderly, but women in romantic relationships are also common targets.

Six Ways to Combat Financial Abuse

If you or someone you know is suffering from financial abuse and planning to divorce, these six strategies can help:

1. Change all of your PIN codes and passwords to something that won't be easily identified. Be sure to do this for all of your bank cards, credit cards, and any billing accounts with your name on it.

2. Open a separate bank account in your own name, preferably at a different bank that the abuser does not use. The more funds you can stash into this account, the better off you'll be.

3. Get a PO box to receive mail privately, or if you already have one, you might want to change the number. For email correspondence with your divorce attorney, open a secret email account. Always use your email in public places away from the abuser's eye, since smartphones and personal computers can be tracked with purchased spyware.

4. Consider getting a reloadable prepaid debit card. These cards work similarly to bank accounts and you can load as much as you want to on them. It is strongly recommended that you get at least one credit card in your name. Many credit companies will make exceptions if you send them a letter that explains your situation.

5. Don't sign any documents that the abuser presents to you. No matter what they try to do to you, remember that they can't make you sign it. What's confirmed in writing on paper will impact you much more than the current situation you're going through.

6. Finally, be ready for you and your children to leave the house at the right opportunity. Look for a discreet place to stay with a friend or family member, and don't forget to take essentials with you for safekeeping. Extra clothes, important papers with your name on it, your private information, your children's favorite toys, and family heirlooms are a few examples. And if you need assistance with finding a job or with educational opportunities, a domestic violence community center can help.

A Path of Hope for the Hurting

Financial abuse in the family home is ugly, but there is hope and a way out. Contact a divorce attorney to find out what your legal rights are. You may have more options than you think. For every end, there is a new beginning.

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