One in four women (25 percent) has experienced domestic violence in her lifetime. In the United States, more than five million women are abused by their intimate partners each year. To put that in perspective, five million women is roughly equivalent to the populations of Los Angeles, CA and Dallas, TX, combined.
Most women in abusive relationships want very much to be out of them, but divorce can be a difficult process, even under “normal” circumstances . . . and “difficult” doesn’t begin to cover what women in abusive marriages face when they try to leave. Often, these women live under the threat of physical violence if their husbands discover their plans, and so it’s no surprise that for many, ending a marriage to an abusive, controlling spouse can seem practically impossible.
As a Divorce Financial Strategist™, I know just how trapped victims of intimate partner abuse can feel. Over the years, my firm has had many clients who were in physically and/or emotionally abusive marriages, and I’ve seen firsthand how an abusive husband can gain power over his wife by making sure she’s entirely dependent on him financially. Many such controlling husbands are extremely secretive about financial matters. In these marriages, the wives have very little idea about their current finances, let alone how to begin establishing their independence. These women feel utterly powerless.
I want to do something about that. My new book, Divorce: Think Financially, Not Emotionally- What Women Need To Know About Securing Their Financial Future Before, During, And After Divorce, is full of useful information for all divorcing women, but the strategies I outline can be particularly helpful for women in abusive marriages who want to regain control of their personal finances.What’s more, I’ve recently announced that half the book’s profits will go directly to a new 501(c)(3) nonprofit charity, Bedrock Divorce Fund for Abused Women, Inc., which I founded specifically to help female victims of abuse and the organizations that support them.
Let me be clear: Women ending abusive marriages need to take all the same financial steps that any woman going through a divorce needs to take. However, in most cases, each step will be much more complicated. For example, an abused woman may not have discretionary access to marital funds, and a controlling husband may demand that every penny spent from a checking account or on a credit card be precisely accounted for.
If you feel trapped like this, there are specific preliminary steps you can take to begin to secure your finances. If it’s possible to do so safely, you should: