Following the Domestic Abuse Bill, the definition of domestic abuse has extended to economic abuse too. This is separate to ‘controlling or coercive behaviour’ and to ‘psychological, emotional or other abuse’ and could stand alone be enough to amount to domestic abuse. The definition of domestic abuse is “any behaviour that has a substantial adverse effect on the victim’s ability to acquire, use or maintain money or other property or to obtain goods or services”. The implications of the new addition would mean that lawyers would have to consider new information, make further applications for the protection of the victim and consider how economic abuse may affect the outcome of financial remedy proceedings.

What are the signs of economic abuse?

This is a non-exhaustive list of signs:

  • Preventing a partner from education or employment
  • Limiting their working hours
  • Not allowing them to receive public funding
  • Taking their earnings or making them pay it into a joint account
  • Not allowing them to access any bank accounts
  • Making the victim pay for everything.

You could read more about the signs and impact of economic abuse on https://survivingeconomicabuse.org/economic-abuse/what-is-economic-abuse/.

It appears as though what constitutes to economic abuse is wide, therefore could be easily satisfied which may have adverse implications on the accused.

Applications for the Applicant

Nonetheless, when there is a compelling case of economic abuse this may lead to protecting the victim further.

Protection:

  • Occupation order- this requires the accused to leave the family home; however, even with leaving there is a risk if he/she pays for mortgage/rent they may stop paying for it. Therefore, alongside the occupation order under S40 Family Law Act 199 the court may order the accused to also pay the rent/mortgage or any outgoings of the property.
  • Non-molestation order- this is a generic order which is often obtained to prevent the accused from harming the victim or their children.

Preservation of assets:

There may be a risk of the accused from moving or hiding assets…

  • An application to the Land Registry to register notices or restrictions against the accused.
  • A disposition under S37 Matrimonial Causes Act 1937
  • Where assets have been transferred, an application under S37(2) Matrimonial Causes Act 1937 may be made.

These are only a few applications that can be made.

 

Financial remedy proceedings

It is interesting to note that through out, the court will consider the conduct of parties in their decisions even if it is non-economic. In the case of FRB v DCA (No.2) [2020] the judge considered the “emotional damage” caused to the husband as a result of the wife lying to him about the child being his.

This means that both parties are encouraged to come with clean hands from the beginning because it will reflect in the costs.

Conclusion

Economic abuse has practically made the definition of domestic abuse wider in which evidentially it may be easy to satisfy however now, it has prompted solicitors to consider innovative ways of considering how clients would need protection from perpetrators.