Financial & Legal News

Financial Coercive Control in Family Law

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In family law, issues such as child custody, divorce, and spousal support often take centre stage, but sometimes our solicitors see clients who are affected by a form of abuse that can have long-lasting and devastating effects on individuals and families: coercive control.

What is financial coercive control?

Financial coercive control is a silent but destructive form of abuse that can involve one partner using financial manipulation to exert power and control over the other.  It is an area that has gained increasing recognition in the legal community, being identified as a form of domestic abuse.

Coercive financial control, sometimes referred to simply as financial abuse, can be undermining and is something our family department recognise on a weekly basis with clients – many of whom do not actually realise they are being controlled until their finances are examined by family solicitors.

As family law solicitor Emma Kendall explains;

“When a client instructs us to deal with their divorce, finances play a part in the process. When we realise they are unaware of the finances in the partnership or have felt intimidated in that part of the relationship, we try to help them to understand what has happened to them and how they can move on and regain control of their lives. This can involve considering counselling, professional support and financial advice.”

Family law plays a crucial role in addressing financial coercive control and it’s something our team take seriously. Legal measures and interventions are essential to protect victims and provide avenues for recourse. Our specialist family lawyers can:

  • Recognise Financial Coercive Control: we understand the dynamics of coercive financial control and are able to identify it when it occurs.
  • Secure Legal Protections: our solicitors can establish legal protections, such as restraining orders, to specifically address financial abuse.
  • Seek Financial Remedies: we help clients develop mechanisms to reclaim control over their finances.
  • Sort residence and contact: we always consider the impact of financial control on childcare arrangements, as this form of abuse can severely impact a victim's ability to provide for their children.

How to recognise signs of financial abuse

This type of control can take various forms, including:

  • Isolation: restricting your access to family, friends, or social support networks, making you financially dependent on the abuser.
  • Economic exploitation: this may involve controlling your income, limiting access to funds, or confiscating your financial resources.
  • Monitoring and surveillance: your partner may constantly monitor financial transactions, restricting your ability to make purchases or maintain financial independence.
  • Sabotaging employment: interfering with work, thereby making it difficult to maintain employment or advance your career.
  • Threats and intimidation: such as threatening to reveal sensitive financial information.
  • Debt Accumulation: Sometimes debt can be accumulated in your name, often without your knowledge or consent, and this can be a method of control.

Coercive control and financial abuse

Coercive financial control can have far-reaching effects leading to emotional distress, depression, anxiety, and feelings of helplessness and victims often struggle to leave an abusive relationship due to their financial dependence on the abuser. This type of abuse also affects children, creating a cycle of dependence and manipulation that may extend across generations.

Definition of coercive control

The Family Procedure Rules 2010, defines coercive control as:

“an act or a pattern of acts of assault, threats, humiliation and intimidation or other abuse that is used to harm, punish, or frighten the victim; and

“an act or pattern of acts designed to make a person subordinate and/or dependent by isolating them from sources of support, exploiting their resources and capacities for personal gain, depriving them of the means needed for independence, resistance and escape and regulating their everyday behaviour.”

Family Law solicitor Emma Kendall adds:

“Add to that financial control and it’s a toxic mix in a marriage,”

“Often victims are too concerned about their ability to provide financially for themselves and their children to end a relationship and whilst other forms of control and abuse have quite rightly been tackled, financial abuse has remained somewhat hidden until recently.”

It is now being recognised more and more by professional family law solicitors. The Domestic Abuse Act was updated in April 2021 to include economic abuse and so for the first time in English law it is a recognised form of domestic abuse, which is a crime.

“Coercive financial control is a hidden but pervasive issue within family law. Recognising and addressing financial abuse is crucial for the well-being of victims and their families. By acknowledging its existence, developing legal protections, and providing support and resources, the family law system can play a significant role in breaking the cycle of financial abuse and manipulation, allowing victims to regain control over their lives and finances,” says Emma.

How can we help?

If you need legal advice on Divorce, Child Custody or Financial abuse contact our family law solicitors on 0161 785 3500 or email

Please note that the information and opinions contained in this article are not intended to be comprehensive, nor to provide legal advice. No responsibility for its accuracy or correctness is assumed by Pearson Solicitors and Financial Advisers Ltd or any of its members or employees. Professional legal advice should be obtained before taking, or refraining from taking, any action as a result of this article.

Written by Emma Kendall


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