United Kingdom

I'm divorcing my abusive husband who has left me in financial ruin

Divorce: My abusive husband took away almost all my savings and even got me into a large debt

I married more than a decade ago and my partner has been physically, verbally and financial abusive to me.

He took away almost all my savings and got me into a large debt. 

He has been taking money from me on and off all the time but it's been much more extreme in the past few years and he repaid very little.

For example, he made me take out a loan for tens of thousands of pounds in September last year and has paid the EMI [equated monthly instalment] for a few months and stopped. 

We are now parting ways and he is refusing to return the money he owes. 

I lost count of the amount he took from me now but it has all been through bank transfer.

I am in a situation where I am worried if I will be able to fight my divorce case in the court because mediation could not be done owing to his nature.

We own a property jointly and he made us move out in May last year and made me agree to rent it out. There's a mortgage on the property and he has always kept whatever is left of the rent after paying the mortgage.

He has forced me to pay towards the rent of the property we have been living in, even when the rental lease is solely in his name. He has now moved out.

What can I do to get my money back? I genuinely wanted to help him and haven't been able to see how the man has been manipulating me, all because I cared for him.

Now I am in a desperate situation because I am a single mother, looking after my daughter all the time, providing for her while he is not even making any maintenance payments despite me approaching Child Maintenance Services.

Can something be done? Kindly advise as I am desperately in need of help. 

Tanya Jefferies, of This is Money, replies: Your heartbreaking story is sadly not an unusual one, as many abusers use money to control their partners and make escape from them harder.

You are already in the process of divorce, and you understandably want to protect and provide for yourself and your daughter.

Want to divorce but can't afford a lawyer? 

Here's 12 ways to reduce, defer or pay your legal fees if you have little or no money... read more here.  

We asked a divorce lawyer how someone who has experienced abuse can approach this safely as possible, and with the best prospect of emerging in a decent financial position.

She offers a lot of practical advice on the divorce process, and how to get through it when you have little cash to spare.

The good news is that you might be eligible for legal aid, depending on your financial situation.

Regarding your husband's financial abuse, we also asked a specialist in this area to explain how you might extricate yourself from the loans and other burdens your husband has put you under.

She reiterates that you might be able to get legal aid for your divorce, and offers plenty of details of organisations that will help you during this very difficult period, so you won't have to struggle on through this alone.

We wish you all the best, and hope you and your daughter soon achieve a free and much brighter future.

Fiona Wood, partner at McAlister Family Law, replies: I am sorry to hear how badly you have been treated by your husband. There is no excuse for domestic abuse.

If this is continuing you need to consider getting a domestic violence injunction, which a solicitor can help you with.

A domestic violence injunction is a civil remedy. However, it usually has a power of arrest attached to it, which means that if your husband breaches the injunction he can be arrested.

It is very important that you and your daughter feel safe.

With regard to the difficult financial position that you find yourself in, the best way to resolve this is through the financial claims that you can make within divorce proceedings.

You will first need to issue divorce proceedings. You can do this yourself through the Government website here or a solicitor can help you. 

Fiona Wood: Legal aid is still available where there has been domestic abuse, if you qualify for it from a financial perspective

Given your husband's behaviour towards you I think that you are likely to need to issue court proceedings regarding the financial aspects of your divorce, as he seems unlikely to engage in sensible negotiations through solicitors.

Whilst mediation can be a very good forum for divorcing couples to reach a financial settlement, it is not suitable where there has been domestic abuse and victims of domestic abuse are exempt from attending mediation before issuing court proceedings.

You should be aware that legal aid may be available to you to deal with the financial court proceedings, as it is still available where there has been domestic abuse, if you qualify for it from a financial perspective.

Within the court process you will both have to provide full details of your financial circumstances and documentation evidencing this.

The judge will take into account all the assets and liabilities that you both have, including the debts that you have as a result of your husband's behaviour and any savings and other assets that he has.

Once all this information is provided, if you cannot reach a financial agreement, a judge will have to decide what a fair financial settlement is, taking into account both your and your husband's financial needs.

Need is usually having somewhere to live and money to live on.

The fact that you are the main carer of your daughter means that your housing needs will be considered the most important by the judge.

The debts that you have will have to be taken into account within the settlement. You should be aware that the court can order the sale of your house and decide how much of the net proceeds of sale you each receive.

The tenant will have to be given notice in this scenario.

Whilst the judge is unlikely to undertake a calculation of all the money that you have spent or given to your husband whilst you have been together, it may be possible for you to raise the issue of your husband's financial conduct as a specific legal issue within the court proceedings.

If you are successful in raising this, you may receive a greater financial settlement. This is something that you will have to take expert legal advice upon.

Dealing with the finances through the court is not a quick process, but there are things that you can do to alleviate your current financial position.

How do you find a lawyer? 

The Law Society has a search tool which allows you to find solicitors specialising in family and divorce issues, writes This is Money.

There is a filter that allows you to narrow your search to firms that take cases funded by legal aid. 

The domestic abuse and other organisations linked to below might also help you find a suitable lawyer.

With regard to your house, as this is a jointly owned property, you are entitled to half of the rent.

The mortgage will need to be paid, but you should receive half of what is left over after it has been paid. If there is a letting agent you should speak to them about this.

If there is not you can speak to the tenant as you are one of the landlords.

You do not give any details of your husband's financial circumstances. You say that you have approached the Child Maintenance Service, but he is not paying anything.

I assume that your husband has income (he is receiving the rent at least), or you would not have applied to the Child Maintenance Service.

If he has been assessed to pay child maintenance, but is refusing to pay, the Child Maintenance Service has various powers to enforce payment, so you must persist with them.

If your husband has income but is presenting a lower income than his true position, it may be worth making an application for interim maintenance, within the financial court proceedings, which is asking for maintenance for you until a financial settlement is reached.

Whether such an application will be successful is only likely to become clear once he has provided his financial information. You must also make sure that you claim all benefits that you are entitled to.

It is important that you take advice from an expert family law solicitor upon the likely outcome of making an application to court regarding finances.

If you are able to provide them with details of your circumstances, they should be able to give you a reasonable idea of the likely settlement you will receive.

They should also be able to discuss with you what options are available to you regarding funding your legal fees, including whether you qualify for legal aid.

Dr Nicola Sharp-Jeffs OBE, founder and chief executive of the charity Surviving Economic Abuse, replies: We're very sorry to hear of your situation.

Nicola Sharp-Jeffs: One in five UK adults have experienced economic abuse from a current or former partner

One in five UK adults have experienced economic abuse from a current or former partner but there is help available.

To address the coerced debt, we recommend contacting the Financial Support Line for Victims of Domestic Abuse, which is run in partnership by Surviving Economic Abuse and Money Advice Plus (01323 635 987. Mon–Fri, 9am–1pm & 2pm–5pm) to explore if it can be reduced or written off.

Additionally, SEA have extensive 'self-help' resources to learn more about coerced debt and how to challenge it. These can be found here. 

Ultimately, it will be a case of approaching the lender to let them know that this loan was not your choice and exploring options.

You mention that your ex-partner took money from you via bank transfers. Again, you can speak to the lender about how you were coerced into making these transfers.

In 2018, a large number of bank and building societies signed up to the UK Finance Code of Practice on Financial Abuse, which sets out how lenders should respond to victim-survivors of financial abuse. 

It sounds like your ex-partner is still paying the mortgage, and keeping the profit from renting the property out.

As the property is jointly owned, the divorce and financial proceedings will determine what happens to the property, for example how the equity will be split.

If your ex-partner did stop paying, you would be liable to pay for the mortgage.

Dealing with marital assets is a family law issue so it would be advisable to contact a family law firm for advice.

STEVE WEBB ANSWERS YOUR PENSION QUESTIONS

       

Divorce and financial arrangements are 'within scope' of legal aid when there is domestic abuse.

Because you have an interest in a property, it isn't clear whether or not you will be eligible for legal aid based on the means test, but you can contact a local family law firm that has been awarded a legal aid contract who can assess your eligibility.

A service like Finding Legal Options for Women Survivors could help with that. 

In terms of your current property, you suggest you're living in a property which is leased under your ex-partner's name.

In this instance, we recommend you should seek specialist housing advice from Shelter around managing this situation. 

Furthermore, as you are living in a property you have no legal control of and he will have legal access to, we recommend contacting a domestic abuse charity to discuss your and your daughter's safety, especially if you are about to take action.

Both Refuge and Women's Aid can provide help.  

Being left to pay off coerced debt or having economic resources restricted, sabotaged or exploited by a partner after leaving is post-separation abuse, utilised by an abuser to create economic instability and prevent a survivor from rebuilding their life safely and independently.

SEA has called for an amendment to the Domestic Abuse Bill to recognise this. As it stands, the Serious Crime Act 2015 offers no protection for women in this position.

Instead, the current offence of controlling or coercive behaviour only covers situations where people are either a) in an intimate relationship with each other or b) living together and are either family members or have previously been in an intimate relationship with each other.

We are working to ensure all victim-survivors of economic abuse receive the support and protection they deserve.

If you think you might be experiencing economic abuse, phone the police in the first instance. You can also contact the National Domestic Violence Helpline for support on 0808 2000 247. 

Find more information and resources to support someone experiencing economic abuse here. 

Football news:

Manchester United are ready to consider offers for De Gea and Martial. Henderson wants to leave if the Spaniard stays
Carlos Bianchi: Messi is still able to dribble the whole team in some games. He is unique, like Ronaldo and Zlatan
The real world is waiting for the Youngster's progress in the Arsenal. In Madrid, they are counting on him
Pep about the calendar: This is not an excuse, but a privilege. The Premier League is challenging us and we must accept it
Messi is more open to getting to stay in the bars than ever before. He does not like the rumors about PSG
Goal Mbappe bars named best in the first match 1/8 finals of the Champions League, ball Fat - 3rd
Tuchel pro 1:3 with PSG from Manchester United in the Champions League: The worst defeat in my career. I felt like I was in the dark two days after the game