Martin Lewis: Financial abuse, joint accounts and managing money within relationships



  • Sadly the government contributes to financial abuse with the benefit system, once you lose your job and if you are lucky enough to have a partner who earns over the benefit threshold you lose any benefit rights. No matter how many years you pay in, once they take your partners income into the equation you will get nothing. In most cases partners will cover the others, however especially with the move away from a single pot of money in some cases people need to ask for money. Ask their partner to pay for prescription, eye test etc this cannot be right.

    Now I have no issues paying these for my partner, but some people are not so lucky, we know the benefit system is flawed but this is an area which often is over looked and allows a partner to abuse another in a way which they have no financial freedom.
  • It's good to highlight this issue. In my 20s I was in a controlling relationship.

    Along with the verbal and emotional abuse, I was the sole earner and didn't have control of my own finances. Eventually I was working one full-time and two part-time jobs. I wasn't 'allowed' to open my own post.

    None of that happened on day one.

    This behaviour escalates over time.

    "We shouldn't have any secrets, should we?" becomes "Let's read it together" and "I'll open it while you're at work and let you know if there are any problems".

    I woke up to the scale of the problem when I was overdrawn and drove home at lunch time to sneak in and try to get my own bank statements off the doormat before he saw them. At the time, it felt like the only way of avoiding one of his rages. Now I'm amazed at myself.

    Every week he'd give me a shopping list for the supermarket. He'd get all of his favourite foods and there'd be virtually no money left for me to eat. Hence all of the jobs...

    I got out eventually (it wasn't easy) and was hampered for years by some CCJs (he'd put some bills in my name, not paid them and kept the letters from me).

    I'll never let this happen again.
    I urge anyone reading this and finding it familiar to remember that this controlling behaviour is illegal now. You don't have to prove your love or devotion by giving up your independance (financially or otherwise).
  • I suffered abuse (including financial) and I have tried everything to get back on my feet.
    But 5 years on I'm still a prisoner of a Mesher order....a further form or court ordered abuse.

    You don't see the abuse at first, you think it's good of them to take such an interest but gradually you relinquish control and it's too late.

    My ex cancelled our utility bills the day he walked out and took all the available credits. He even took my childrens savings.

    He changed the car 4 months earlier and he took that along with my NCB.

    He ran up debts and dragged me through court until it made me ill..

    I'm now stuck paying a mortgage at a higher rate because I cannot remortgage eventhough that would make the monthly payments smaller. Plus I still have thousands in legal fees on credit cards.

    When my children grow up they will be financially aware.
  • Ella7
    Ella7 Posts: 1 Newbie
    Thank you, for being brave and sharing. Why why, things will get better, and your children will bring you hope and joy.
  • Buggybear
    Buggybear Posts: 5
    First Anniversary Combo Breaker
    I have been with my partner for 18 years. We have two children aged 9 and 11. I did not work after having our second child, childcare too expensive, and my partner supported me financially, (gave me £50 ‘pocket money’ per week.) I did have small debts which he cleared (around £2000). I have now been earning for 5 years. Each month I transfer all my wages to him (around £1300) and he gives me ‘pocket money’, £100 per week. (Now £80 per week as he is keeping some back towards my holiday spending money.)
    I am concerned after reading the blog that the mortgage on our house and all bills etc are in his name. We are not married. If anything were to happen to him, where would I stand with regards to my home/bills/mortgage etc? I would not know the first thing about our finances. (When I have asked previously about money he becomes aggressive)
  • Dontpanic
    Dontpanic Posts: 10
    First Anniversary First Post Combo Breaker
    I was in a financially (and physically) abusive relationship and even after many years, am still feeling the effects of it. In a nutshell, my ex-husband couldn't control his spending urges. When we first were married, we both had good jobs and earned a good wages. Then when we decided to start a family, I had to give up work, but I made an effort to pay off the two credit cards we had in joint names, knowing that our income was going to halve and our out-goings were going to go up. At that point, we were fine. Then he came home with an expensive watch that he'd bought for me (£1800 in 1993) and had put on one of the credit cards. I told him to take it back but he argued that it was 'an investment'. He would fixate on buying something, and would go from shop to shop trying to find the best price, we had half a dozen coffee machines in the house, four or five cars on the drive. He would start new hobbies and go out and buy all the equipment he needed to do the hobby, (like skis, boots, trousers, jackets etc) and do it once and never again. I would argue with him and tell him that we didn't need whatever it was he wanted to buy, but he controlled the finances and I wasn't allowed any way to view what we had. If I really argued with him, he would get violent. It was back in the day when we had £50 cheque guarantee cards and cheque books, and that was all I was allowed (to go food shopping with) to have. Because of his well-paid job, banks and loan companies were prepared to lend him money. He had been left some money by a relative before we married and I never knew how much and also when it had run out. So whenever he bought something and I complained, he told me that the money had come from this legacy. In fact, by the time I managed to find out the extent of the debts, the money had long gone and we had debts of over £100,000 and didn't have a home or mortgage to show for it. (When we married, I had a small house and a mortgage, but he insisted that we sold it and he spent the money on cars instead of using it as a deposit on a bigger house for us). If I complained too much, threatened to leave, he would sneer at me and say that I would never leave him as I had nowhere to go and he would make sure I had no money to go with. Most of the loans were in his name, but the credit cards and bank account and bank loan (as it was a joint account) were in joint names. I asked him to separate the bank account so that it was solely in his name, he said he would, but he didn't and the over-draft continued to grow as the bank loan installents couldn't be paid and they put charges into the account (I found out afterwards that they charged each of us £25 for bouncing the loan payment). The over-draft soared and then creditors started to get agitated. He then went missing. Having told his father he felt suicidal, the police went looking for him and I had to view a body they had pulled from a river which matched his description and the length of time he'd been missing, (it wasn't him). He had in fact, gone on holiday with a woman he'd been seeing behind my back, (I found out a long time later when he married her after I kicked him out). Whilst he was missing, I got in touch with a debt consolidation agency and by the time he came back, had started to sort things out with the agency's assistance. The money that they allowed us for food per month, he viewed as 'spare' money, and went out and spent it on nothing. I had got a part time job, my own bank account and was feeding us all and doing my best with other expenses like nursery fees with my wages and child benefit. But I couldn't earn enough to keep us all going and started to sink myself financially. His answer to that was that I should become a sex worker...apparently it would solve all our problems! It got to the point when I had £5 for food to feed us all for a month, and he went out with his mates one night, taxi there and back and a night's drinking. On his return, I told him it was over and kicked him out. He then refused to pay anything towards the children, it took the CSA 11 months to get him to start paying and I spent years, fighting him and the CSA every month to get him to pay. I used to sell the kid's out-grown clothes and toys so that I could buy bigger ones in the charity shop. His employer assisted him in avoiding paying, I got abusive texts, phone calls and letters from his family and death threats and threats to have me beaten up by his mates over the phone. He got a Court Order to say that he was entitled to have contact with his kids and he abused that contact by phoning me all hours of the day and night, him and his new wife giggling down the phone at me, or just ringing and ringing on and off all evening. He didn't pay the debts, he told everyone that I had forced him to sign the loan agreements and I had issues with the Bank too, as he wouldn't pay, they chased me. I struggled financially, even though I got full time work, as I had accrued debts in my own name whilst we were still together, trying to make ends meet. Then I had to pay Court Costs as we ended up in Court. It has taken me years to shake off the financial aftermath of being married to him. I would never again have a joint account with anyone.
  • I was interested in this article on a slightly different angle. I would like to know with a joint bank account if one person died, if the money goes straight to the other account holder, and if it has to be declared for probate. Thinking if it’s worth opening accounts with my children. From what I have read elsewhere it is outside of the estate. If so, why is that not shown for planning your estate?
  • Hello. I really need some advice. I am desperate, and I have tried all avenues I can think of.
    I am trying to get out of a relationship with someone who I can now see inflicted financial abuse, for many years. We are now recently divorced, but he is a high conflict (narcissistic?) person who I cannot co parent or parallel parent with.
    I sold our house- and despite the fact that I paid for everything, did everything, he will not agree to release any money from the solicitors. We have agree what to do, but he won't do it.
    He has created impossibly complicated tax affairs, and has failed to pay child maintenance due to his threatened bankruptcy.
    I am step changed up to the max. He pays nothing, does nothing.
    I am suffering with my mental health, and am having counseling. I am about to go to court. After nearly 2 years I am left with no choice. That's a taste of the complexities of it all. No-one can help or advise me anymore.
    I thought someone might be able to see the bigger picture and help me out.
    Please let me know who I can talk to, who might be able to help. I’ve tried HMRC, solicitors, mediation, peer advocacy, the CAB, everything I can think of.
    It’s really a very complicated situation; the above is just a fraction of the problems.
    Thank you very much in advance.
  • Hi,
    I have a question. Like many in here I have suffered controlling and coercive abuse (emotional and psychological abuse) at the hands of my husband (soon to be ex.) which has become worse since leaving. It was a very gradual thing, over the past 9 years. I am in a fortunate position in that my mum is supporting me financially with solicitors and legal fees to get divorced. Like others there are debts which are being contested. Like many it’s an impossible task and costing thousands because of his continued behaviour, lies and manipulation of the legal system.

    I found out recently that the Child Benefit that was being paid to me wasn’t in my name as I had believed it was. It was in his name but with my account details. He’s changed the bank account details to his own since I left him and I have filed with HMRC to challenge this. It’s complicated by an interim court order for joint custody for our daughter pending a final court hearing. So HMRC have stopped payments at my request/ because of my challenge, because we can not agree who it should be paid to.

    For the last 5 years I have been paying the child benefit (with a top up from my own wages) into a junior ISA in our daughters name. It’s with my bank and I have always been the named parent. Which my ex husband knew. He’s never paid into it despite earning a very good wage. So as well as the money not coming to me, he’s refused to continue to pay it into her ISA and is now insisting via his solicitor I add him to her account as the lead parent. I have refused. I have also warned my bank of what he’s trying to do. He’s then threatened a court undertaking to force me to send him annual bank statements, claiming he’s concerned the money will not go to her when she is 18. (Despite it being explained it’s a junior ISA!)

    My concern is he is after the money and will coerce our daughter into handing this money over to him under the guise of “safe keeping” or into spending it when she reaches 18. I’ve learnt he can not control his spending and had loans and debts I wasn’t aware of. It is also another way for him to create forced contact between us.(there is a non-molestation order in place, he’s only allowed to email me and only about our daughter - also being abused in the guise it’s about our daughter)

    While I am advised by my solicitor that I don’t have to agree, my question is what can I do to protect this money and future proof our daughter against him. I want to save for her future but now I am feeling like I can’t because he’s after control of any money in her name or knowledge/ information about it. I had to disclose the ISA as he knew about it. Any suggestions?
  • Janin
    Janin Posts: 33 Forumite
    In late 2006, I plucked up the courage to seek help from a Solicitor after a particularly life threatening domestic violence and abuse incident with my ex partner that had occurred in the presence of some of our children who were aged 1 to 9 years old.

    The same day I was in an emergency court hearing and the Judge ordered an immediate anti-molestation and injunction against my ex partner, with powers of arrest if he breached this. As it was an emergency ex-parte hearing, my ex wasn’t present in Court so Court Official went to his office and served him with the Court Order, never to return home.

    I thought this would end the domestic violence and abuse, but this made it worse and I continued to face not just physical and verbal, but threats to kill, financial abuse and false allegations.

    Within weeks I discovered my name was forged on documents that enabled a remortgage on the family home, leaving me to face homelessness or struggling with an expensive mortgage. My family agreed to assist with mortgage payments. Although a man of considerable means, he refused to pay any child maintenance ever. I initially used credit cards and my overdraft facilities to survive, however I couldn’t sustain this debt and was eventually forced to claim a number of benefits such as income support, child tax credits, child benefit, council tax benefits, as well as receive financial assistance from family and friends.

    Fast forward 2019 the unpaid child maintenance has an outstanding amount of £106,000, I gave up bothering to claim it years ago. This is another form of economic abuse.

    Whilst trying to deal with the Mortgage fraud I contacted the Police. I quickly discovered that if a stranger had forged my signature to obtain a mortgage, it would be considered fraud and the law would have have mechanisms in place for me to be considered a victim. Unfortunately, if it is a domestic partner involved, in those days it wasn’t acknowledged or recognised as fraud and nothing was achieved. I was considered lucky to remain in my home and fortunate that the mortgage lender Kensington Mortgage Company allowed me to pay for the mortgage. However, despite paying and disclosing to Kensington that I was a domestic abuse victim, this was deemed as challenging the validity of the mortgage. They stated I was irrelevant, a third party and I was only eligible to pay for the mortgage, but not to know how much, how long for, the interest rate and more importantly the solicitors charges added to the account to deal with me challenging that economic abuse and forgery was wrong.

    I pleaded and cried to Kensington for many years trying to explain that my family were frustrated paying off the debt of the man that abused me, but not being told how much. In the end they repossessed the house, their agents looted my belongings and denied my requests to allow the financial Ombudsman Service to assist, assess the situation and find a resolution so that I could keep the house.

    Thankfully, now MP’s like Rosie Duffield will stand up in Parliament and explain what it is like to be a survivor of domestic abuse. The Government is including economic abuse in the Domestic Abuse Bill and I am now getting support from the only charity that deals specifically with economic abuse - Surviving Economic Abuse. I feel Kensington, The FCA and The FOS didn’t help me in the past. Now Surviving Economic Abuse is speaking to the FOS about my case, I hope others get support and help going forward. My abuser treated me dreadfully, but I say Kensington Mortgage Company and the Financial Services Industry abused me more.
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