Economic abuse has increased as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic

Boardman, Hawkins & Osborne LLP

It has been reported that 8.7 million people are experiencing economic abuse in their current or former relationship. 1.6 million reported this as a result of COVID-19 pandemic.The figures are revealed in the report Know Economic Abuse published by Co-operative Bank and Refuge. The Know Economic Abuse campaign aims to raise awareness of economic abuse in the UK.

What is Economic Abuse?

Economic abuse is financial abuse.

The Domestic Abuse Bill currently before Parliament will, for the first time, include economic abuse within the definition of domestic abuse. Economic abuse” means any behaviour that has a substantial adverse effect on someone’s ability to acquire, use or maintain money or other property, or obtain goods or services”.

The campaign group Surviving Economic Abuse identify a number of behaviours which would amount to economic abuse including:

Control how their partner acquires money and economic resources, such as:

  • preventing their partner from being in education or employment
  • limiting their working hours
  • taking their pay
  • refusing to let them claim benefits
  • refusing to let them access a bank account.

Limit how their partner uses money and economic resources, such as:

  • controlling when and how money is spent
  • dictating what their partner can buy
  • making their partner ask for money or providing an allowance
  • checking their receipts
  • making their partner keep a spending diary
  • making them justify every purchase made
  • controlling the use of property, such as a mobile phone or car
  • insisting all economic assets (e.g. savings, house) are in their name
  • keeping financial information secret.

Sabotage their partner’s ability to maintain economic resources, such as:

  • steal their money or property
  • causing damage to their property
  • refusing to contribute to household costs
  • spending money needed for household items and bills
  • insisting all bills, credit cards and loans are in their partner’s name and make their partner pay them
  • build up debt in their partner’s name, sometimes without their knowledge.

What can I do about economic abuse?

It depends on the circumstances. Below are some of the options you can consider:

  1. Protect yourself – consider making an application for an occupation order and a non-molestation order.
  2. Seek to prevent the disposal of assets – consider registering a matrimonial home rights notice if the property is owned in the other party’s sole name, and or consider making an application for a freezing order or an application for an order to set aside any disposal of assets or seek to have the asset ‘added back’ in to any financial order.
  3. Seek financial disclosure – this can be voluntarily provided or directed through the courts. If the disclosure is incomplete or not full and frank, questions can be raised in a questionnaire and if the replies still do not provide the financial disclosure required, a Schedule of Deficiencies can be prepared to raise any issues you may have. The court can also direct that a penal notice is attached to the disclosure order imposing sanctions for non-compliance including fines and committal to prison. If all else fails, the court can be requested to draw adverse inferences against the party that has failed to provide financial disclosure.
  4. Seek funds to meet your monthly expenses – consider making an application for interim maintenance. If you have children, consider applying to the Child Maintenance Service for child maintenance.
  5. Seek funds to meet your legal expenses – consider borrowing from friends and family. If this is not available, litigation loans can be considered and applied for. If these options are unavailable or fail, you can consider making an application for a Legal Services Payments Order. This is an order setting out an amount that is to be paid by the other party to you to pay your legal fees.
  6. Consider raising litigation misconduct and seek a costs order or adverse inferences to be drawn in any final financial order.

For further information please contact Karen Newman.

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