How to deal with a financially abusive ex-partner.
A while ago, a woman commented on a Facebook photo of mine.
She started to talk about how her ex husband withheld child maintenance for their children if he was in a bad mood for any reason, and said that he would often reduce the payments if he had been out shopping beforehand.
She felt a deep sense of relief to be able to talk about it out in the open, and after I directed her to my post about financial abuse, she felt even more relieved to be able to see that it wasn’t just her who was dealing with financial abuse; it’s a common scenario for too many people – mostly women.
Just as she got that load off of her chest, however, a new load appeared on her shoulders: someone saw her post and told her ex-husband about it.
For many parents, financial abuse is a part of daily life.
My reader had to endure the discomfort of waiting for the inevitable: verbal abuse and withholding child maintenance altogether.
We had a brief chat about her situation, and she told me about the pressure she was under due to her ex-husband’s financial abuse, and how it affected her depression.
For many single parents, financial abuse is a part of daily life. Click To Tweet
Child maintenance as a tool for abuse
Just as that happened, I saw another post in a child maintenance support group by a different woman, who was questioning the advice she constantly heard given to parents who are denied child maintenance: to not rely on the child maintenance payments, but just to see them as extra money.
Her point was, why should parents with care of their children be told not to expect any help from the non-resident parents who are responsible for contributing financially?
She made a valid point: that attitude simply allows non-paying parents to abnegate real responsibility.
However, the sad fact is that there are thousands of non-resident parents who are willfully shirking their legal and moral responsibilities towards their children, and I’ve written about this in greater detail in this post: Withholding Child Maintenance Is Financial Abuse.
The fact remains that the Child Maintenance Service, by way of failing to provide a service that is fit for purpose, is in effect colluding in the financial abuse of thousands of parents and children.
Power and control
One of the factors behind this kind of financial abuse is the desire to exercise control over the other person. The abuser enjoys feeling in control of the money, and will encourage a situation where the other person has to repeatedly ask for child support payments before they’re made.
For example, in the same Facebook support group, I read another woman’s story of repeatedly having to email her ex, begging for the maintenance payments to be made.
This scenario is precisely what the abuser wants, and it perpetuates the cycle of abusive behaviour. With each request, the abuser feels empowered and is more likely to create the circumstances where their victim will have to get in touch, putting themselves under the abuser’s control.
Breaking out of the abuser’s grip
For this reason alone, I have always been determined never to beg my ex-husband for child support, and I’ve been fortunate enough to be able to get by without having to resort to it.
I have known from the beginning that he was unwilling to pay anything, and that the only recourse I would ever have to any maintenance payments would be through the Child Support Agency. I’ve been able to avoid ending up in the abusive cycle I just described, but many single parents are not as fortunate.
Unfortunately for me, avoiding the cycle has meant that I’ve been at a financial disadvantage as well, having to support a child on my own. Just because I’ve escaped reliance on my former partner, that doesn’t mean that I’ve been well off, or that I’ve been able to give my son all of the things I would have liked to. It just means that I’ve managed.
No two people share the exact same circumstances, and there are many parents who find themselves much worse off financially, forced to rely on the whims of their abusive ex-partners.
Here’s where it’s worth accepting that yes, it is a gross injustice against single parents who are denied child maintenance, but for the sake of avoiding the effects of abuse, for our own sakes, we have to strive to attain a minimum level of financial stability without relying on a former partner.
In this situation, it’s a good idea to look into side income streams and benefits that you may be entitled to.
Cease unnecessary communication
Abusive exes often derive a kind of gratification from knowing that the relationship persists, even in a tiny, tiny way.
Unexpected texts and emails picking fights, sending the children back from visits in worn-out clothes, refusing to return toys you’ve purchased – all of it is designed to elicit a response from you and drag you back into the cycle of communication. Is it worth it?
Try to avoid unnecessary contact with a financially abusive ex. Click To Tweet
You’ll have to communicate over matters concerning your children, but beyond that, you don’t owe your ex any more of your attention. Keep it business-like, and that includes on social media.
Document everything. Everything.
Threatening texts and angry email? They may well fall under the Malicious Communications Act. Take screenshots, print emails out and tell the police if you’ve been threatened.
Many times we downplay the aggressive actions of former partners because we’ve been conditioned to think our problems aren’t worth the attention of the authorities. Well, that’s how small abuses snowball into big ones. As long as minor threats are tolerated, they can turn into something worse.
Never tolerate verbal or written abuse or threats - they can and do escalate. Click To Tweet
Document it all – write it down in a diary or keep a blog.
Get more help
Universal basic income can help to end financial abuse.
It may be controversial, but I believe that basic income has the potential to end this kind of financial abuse… but I’ll address that in another post.
Please add your experiences and advice for those dealing with financial abuse after the end of a relationship – and share this post with someone who needs to read it.