Case Study: My kids were not yet school age when I separated from my husband of 12 years because of his abuse. But the abuse escalated when I left. Among other things, he assaulted me and took off with the kids without permission. He has continued the abuse in various forms since then.
I came into the relationship with around $70,000 of assets. On the day that I actually left I literally had nothing. He cleared all of our joint bank accounts, spending, saving and business accounts; thousands of dollars. They were all completely wiped. I had to contact a family member and ask to borrow money to put fuel in the car, to buy nappies and formula for my youngest, and to buy food for us to be able to have dinner.
I moved out of our family home for our safety. He stayed. He had a full-time job, I wasn’t working at the time. He hadn’t wanted me to work because he’d have to pitch in with the kids (which he didn’t want to do) but at the same time, he’d accuse me of not pulling my weight because I didn’t have an income.
When I left, he stopped making payments on the mortgage. I didn’t know this at the time. We had built up quite a significant buffer on the mortgage (about $15,000) sitting there in a redraw facility … so, I wasn’t aware that he had stopped paying the mortgage, or that he was using the money sitting there in our redraw that we’d saved up.
It wasn’t until we went to do our property settlement that I realised all of that money was gone. He kept the family home, and I got paid out. He kept everything in the house plus the cars and investment properties. It didn’t seem fair, but my solicitor advised it would be more expensive to take it to Court. As it was, the property settlement just paid for my legal fees and enabled me to buy a car.
I’ve been working part-time ever since we left. For a while we bounced around friends and family members’ places. It was hard to even get into a rental at that time because I was a single Mum with two kids and part-time employment. And, because I’d been living in my own home for years, I had no rental references.
It’s not realistic for me to work anymore than part-time because of the kids’ needs and having to continue to manage the post-separation domestic violence. I’ve opted out of the Child Support system because he’d tell the kids “Mum takes my money” and I would see an escalation of the abuse each time a payment came through. And the system is so complicated to contest anything.
I’m in a private rental at the moment in a property owned by a friend. I’m paying about $120 less than what the market rate would be for this rental, and it’s still more than we were paying on our mortgage. It’s not like the house that we lived in as a family with a large backyard and space for the kids but at least it’s stable and safe.
I cannot foresee a time when I’ll be able to get back into the housing market. Certainly not until my children are adults and either contributing financially or have moved out.
Almost 9 years down the track I’m still contending with him, the ongoing abuse, and the consequences of his abuse.