Case Study: I survived decades of psychological, sexual, and economic abuse from my ex-husband and he has cost me everything. I lost my car, my home and my business, and years of my life through legal abuse. I had to start from scratch as a 50 year old.
I’m currently renting a place for $700 a week; money I could have been paying on a mortgage, but the bank refused to refinance to me so I could stay in my house. And the Family Court facilitated his abuse.
My ex would always tell me I was “terrible with money”. In the last five years we were together, his financial abuse escalated. He became really focused on controlling all aspects of our money to the point of deciding how much money I was allowed. He would demand to have a complete rundown of my day and wanted to know every cent I spent.
We had created a business together and he took over and started making all the financial and business decisions. We both drew a salary, but I wasn’t paid any super. There was a second company in my name which was used by our accountant to minimise tax. Because that was in my name, I ended up with that tax debt, despite having no say in it.
When I left the relationship, he wouldn’t move out unless I agreed to 50-50 shared care with the kids, so I agreed to that even though I didn’t want to.
Once he moved out, he refused to pay anything towards the mortgage, so I sought a quick financial separation. My lawyer at the time said that shouldn’t take any longer than 6 months; that it should be an easy financial separation as the equity in the business and the home were nearly equivalent. But my ex dragged settlement out for three years. Initially I sought a hardship arrangement from the Bank but as things dragged on, they needed their payments.
During that time, he also deliberately ran down the business and put it into debt to take the business out of the asset pool.
The Family Court ordered me to produce a letter from the Bank to say the bank would agree to refinance the mortgage and this post-separation business debt, into my name. I didn’t think that was fair, but I was willing to take that on, so I could keep the house. But the bank was slow to respond and would only put in writing that they couldn’t refinance me at this time. They would not put in writing that they needed a property distribution agreement or settlement in order to make refinancing decisions.
I then saw a mortgage broker to see if I could get finance elsewhere. On my full-time wage, I met the criteria to refinance. Unbelievably, that information was ignored by the Court. I fought so hard to keep the house, for some financial stability for me and for the kids.
At one point, to manage all the requirements of Court and fighting the bank, I had to change to part-time work, which didn’t help.
Eventually, while the bank came to understand about the financial abuse and ceased foreclosure action, the Court ordered us out of our home. We had to couch surf for months while settlement was delayed because my ex-husband wouldn’t provide financial disclosure. We couldn’t get a rental property because no-one wants to rent to a single mum. Meanwhile, our house sat vacant for weeks while we had nowhere to live.
When the house finally sold and settlement happened, most of the proceeds went to pay off his tax debt and lawyers’ fees. I took the little lump sum we got to offer 6-months up-front on a rental, so we finally had a place of our own to live.
If we’d been able to stay in our home, our lives would be completely different. Until we were forced out, we were recovering from the family violence really well; I was back to full-time work, the kids were close to their schools and friends. I thought I’d escaped that oppression and control, but it actually escalated.
Banks need to be aware of financial abuse and the lifelong implications of it. If they had acted sooner, this might have been avoided. But the outcome is what the perpetrator wanted; the day we split up he said, “you’re not getting this house”.