Economic abuse as a form of Domestic Violence

When people separate, one party is often subject to economic abuse by their former partner. In Queensland, if two people are in a relevant relationship, ‘domestic violence’ includes economic abuse.  The Domestic and Family Violence Protection Act 2012 (Qld) defines economic abuse as behaviour that is coercive, deceptive or unreasonably controls another without their consent and in a way that denies them economic or financial autonomy.  It also includes situations where one person withholds or threatens to withhold financial support necessary to meet reasonable living expenses.

In the Act’s definition of ‘domestic violence’, to coerce a person means to compel or force them to do, or not do, something. The most obvious example of economic abuse is coercing a person to give up control of their assets or income. Other specific examples include coercing a person to:

  • claim social security payments;
  • sign a power of attorney that would enable their finances to be managed by someone else;
  • sign a contract, loan application or guarantee; or
  • sign documents to establish or operate a business.

Examples of economic abuse also include:

  • removing or keeping property without consent;
  • disposing of property against another person’s wishes and without lawful excuse;
  • preventing access to joint financial assets, such as a joint bank account, for the purposes of meeting normal household expenses; or
  • preventing someone from seeking or keeping employment.

Economic abuse is perhaps a more subtle expression of power imbalance but is often a feature of relationship breakdown.  If your partner or former partner has restricted your access to joint funds, has asked you to sign documents or has withdrawn financial support for you, their behaviour may amount to domestic violence.  There are remedies available to you under the Domestic and Family Violence Protection Act, and additional action which you can take to receive maintenance or access to assets through a property settlement.

If you or someone you know is experiencing any of the behaviours listed above or if you would like further advice on whether particular behaviour is economic abuse, please contact us.