It’s a sobering statistic that one in five UK adults have experienced economic abuse from a current or former partner.

Reports of domestic abuse soared during lockdown too. In fact, an investigation by BBC’s Panorama in the summer uncovered that two thirds of women in abusive relationships reported more domestic abuse during the lockdown period.

It’s important to note that abuse is not always physical violence, with domestic abuse also including coercive control, economic abuse, online abuse, threats and intimidation, emotional abuse and sexual abuse.

Here, Diane Matthews, who is a family law specialist, explores what options are available to sufferers of economic abuse who have been left in debt by their partner, and are now considering divorce.

Economic abuse

The first thing to consider in cases where domestic violence is continuing is whether a domestic violence injunction would assist, as it can provide real protection. If you are impacted by domestic violence, it’s important to take advice from a family solicitor as rapidly as possible.

The government recently announced post-separation abuse – including economic abuse – is to become an offence.

If you’ve suffered economic abuse and your partner has got you into debt, the best way to resolve a difficult financial position is through a financial claim within divorce proceedings. The first step is to issue divorce proceedings.

Financial settlements

Given that abusive behaviour is difficult to deal with, issuing financial remedy proceedings would likely be the next step.

Within the process both parties have to provide full details of their financial circumstances and documentation evidencing this. The judge hearing the case would then take into account all of the marital assets and liabilities, including the debts that have arisen as a result of the abusive party’s behaviour, with a view to making a fair decision.

If an agreement cannot be reached then a judge may make a decision as to what a fair financial settlement is, taking into account the needs of the parties and any children.

Broadly speaking, need deals with having appropriate housing and money to take care of day-to-day requirements.

Approaching debt

The debts accrued would also be taken into account within the financial settlement. If the debts had been incurred without the other party’s knowledge, it may be possible for this to be raised as an issue of financial conduct within the financial proceedings.

Keep in mind that it takes time for matters to be dealt with by the court, so in the short term it’s sensible to consider approaching any lenders involved to explain the situation to them and exploring short-term options.

Diane Matthews is a legal executive based at WHN’s Blackburn office, specialising in in divorce and separation, including the associated financial consequences. To contact Diane, call her on 01254 272640 or email