En Español
National Domestic Violence Hotline: 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) or (TTY) 1-800-787-3224

Know the Laws:

UPDATED June 19, 2017

View All

Making or attempting to make a person financially dependent, e.g., maintaining total control over financial resources and withholding access to money, are some forms of financial abuse (also called economic abuse). Below is information on how to handle the aftermath of this type of abuse, including dealing with credit card debt and identity theft.

Financial matters when leaving an abusive relationship

back to topWhat are some financial protections I can take if I am getting to ready to leave an abusive relationship?

One thing to think about if you are trying to leave an abusive relationship is trying to get access to personal and financial records.  Do you know where financial records are kept?  Do you have safe access to them?  If so, you might want to think about making copies of those records and putting them in a safe place, where the abuser won't know about (but that you can easily get to quickly if you have to leave).  You may want to think about getting a bank safe deposit box as a safe place to put these records. If you can afford one, it can be handy.

Some things you may want to keep a copy of include:

  • birth certificates and Social Security cards for your whole family;
  • insurance cards for your whole family;
  • copies of your checking account, savings account, and credit card numbers;
  • copies of any stock or mutual fund records;
  • loan/mortgage information;
  • your most recent credit report;
  • tax returns for the past two years;
  • car title;
  • deed to your house or your rental lease;
  • retirement plan statements; and
  • photos of your family's most valuable assets (e.g., nice cars, expensive jewelry, anything you think is worth a fair amount of money).
If you think the abuser will not notice, you may try to take the original copies of these documents.  However, if there's a chance the abuser would notice, which could put you in danger, you may just take copies of these documents.

If you can, you may also try to find out:
  • How much the abuser earns (including salary, bonuses, money s/he gets from any rental properties). A good place to look may be last year's tax return;
  • How much money is in all accounts: savings, checking, investments, retirement accounts; and
  • How much money is owed on credit cards, the mortgage, car, etc.
These financial records and information can be very important in a divorce or child support case to make sure you get a fair divorce settlement and financial support.

Did you find this information helpful?

back to topWho is responsible for the debt after we get divorced?

As a part of a divorce, debt that was built up during a marriage is usually split between the spouses, though not necessarily equally.  What usually happens is that either the spouses will decide on a division of debt that they can both agree to OR a judge will divide the debt looking at a number of different factors.  Depending on your state’s law, it could be possible that if you can prove that your spouse racked up debt for things that ONLY benefitted him/her and had no benefit whatsoever on the household, the judge might agree that s/he is the only person responsible for those debts.  To figure out what your state’s laws say about the division of debt, and to find out about how the debt in your marriage might be divided in a divorce, we suggest that you talk to a lawyer.  Go to our Finding a Lawyer page to try to locate a divorce lawyer in your state.

For general info on divorce in your state (but not specifically about marital debt), read about Divorce on WomensLaw.org.

Did you find this information helpful?

back to top