Harmans Lawyers
30 March 2022

Economic abuse (or financial abuse) is a form of family violence

All Articles & News, Family Law and Relationship Property

Economic abuse has recently been given greater recognition in Aotearoa through the help of organisations such as Good Shepherd. On 26 November 2021, New Zealand recognised its inaugural Economic Harm Awareness Day (alongside Australia and the UK). In fact, this is a very new phenomenon worldwide, with Canada first starting the campaign and recognising the day in 2019, via the Canadian Centre for Women’s Empowerment.

Economic abuse has been termed the “weaponising of money” by an intimate partner by AUT University senior lecturer Ayesha Scott. This can include controlling behaviour such as denying the victim access to bank accounts or funds, restricting the victim’s choices regarding their purchases or spending, forcing victims to incur debts (e.g. by making them take out a loan) and forcing victims to account for every cent they have spent.

The suffering often continues after the relationship has ended, as lenders and debt collectors chase the debts owed, or the victim is left having to manage damaged credit ratings.

In the Family Violence Act 2018, economic abuse is listed as a form of psychological abuse, which is a form of family violence. This statute removed outdated terms such as “domestic violence”, and re-phrased the term to family violence – which effectively calls it as it is.

Economic abuse is a form of family violence and can be cited in support of applying for a Protection Order, but it is not a criminal offence in its own right (at this stage).

Change is being discussed by campaigners in this area, including possibly having to record both adults in a relationship against a service/debt such as a power bill, requiring lenders to obtain more information from people applying for loans (to try and spot any economic abuse) and whether economic abuse should be a standalone crime.

At a webinar in November 2021 held by Good Shepherd to recognise Economic Harm Awareness Day, some lenders cited examples where they had waived debts of economic abuse victims in New Zealand, to allow them to move forward with their lives.

However, currently many banks and other financial providers do not have specific family violence policies, and so victim support agencies are advocating for greater awareness and education in this area.

If you, or a loved one, has experienced family violence (in any of its forms) and would like to discuss applying for a Protection Order, contact the Family Law team at Harmans, on 03 379 7835 or legal@harmans.co.nz.


The information contained in this site is provided for informational purposes only, and should not be construed as legal advice on any subject matter.