Financial Abuse and Resource Theory

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It is common in abusive relationships to have financial abuse, which is behaviour that seeks to control a person’s ability to acquire, use, or maintain economic resources, and threatens their self-sufficiency and financial autonomy. It is a form of psychological and emotional abuse where it involves restricting the victim’s resources.

                                                                                                                                                           – Resource Theory[1]


[1] National Network to End Domestic Violence. (2019). Financial Abuse Fact Sheet. Washington D.C.; National Network to End Domestic Violence.

Forms of Financial Abuse

Financial abuse may begin subtly and progress over time. It may even look like love initially as abusers have the capacity to appear very charming and are masterful at manipulation. It is also a manifestation of an unhealthy and abusive relationship even though one’s spouse might not have physically done anything to the victim.

Whether subtle or overt, there are common methods that abusers use to gain financial control over their partner. These include:

  • Forbidding the victim to work
  • Sabotaging work or employment opportunities
    • Stalking or harassing the victim at the workplace
    • Physically battering prior to important meetings or interviews
  • Not including the victim in investment or banking decisions
  • Not allowing the victim access to bank accounts
  • Withholding/controlling money/assets
    • Giving the victim an “allowance”
    • Preventing the victim from obtaining basic needs such as food and medicine
  • Running up large amounts of debt on joint accounts
  • Refusing to work or contribute to the family income
  • Stealing the victim’s identity, property, or inheritance
  • Forcing the victim to work in a family business without pay
  • Forcing the victim to turn over public benefits or threatening to turn the victim in for “cheating or misusing benefits”
  • Refusing to pay or evading child support or manipulating the divorce process by drawing it out by hiding or not disclosing assets


[1] Learn more about financial abuse. NNEDV. (n.d.). Retrieved October 19, 2021, from

    How can it affect Victims?

    In the short-term, access to assets is imperative to staying safe. Without assets, survivors are often unable to obtain safe and affordable housing or the funds to provide for themselves or their children.[1] Victims would often face overwhelming odds in obtaining long-term security and safety, making it extremely difficult to gain independence, safety, and long-term security.[2]


    Financial abuse can also lead to other forms of abuse (i.e. emotional, physical, sexual) especially if husbands earn less than their wives, as violence serves as a compensation for their shortage of resources.[3]


    [1] Ibid.

    [2] Ibid.

    [3] Atkinson, M. P., Greenstein, T. N., & Lang, M. M. (2005). For Women, Breadwinning Can Be Dangerous: Gendered Resource Theory and Wife Abuse. Journal of Marriage and Family, 67(5).


    Resources for Victims

    SCWO’s Maintenance Support Central (MSC) can aid victims by providing support and assistance to victims who are having problems receiving spousal and/or child maintenance. MSC seeks to educate victims with knowledge about their marital rights and give all-around support through its services, in collaboration with community partners.[1]


    MSC is a partner of the Family Justice Courts in Singapore, so victims can receive assistance with the filing of the following:

    1. Fresh Maintenance Application
      • Which assists spouses or child(ren) claiming maintenance without an existing court order; or
      • Muslim women whose Syariah court orders do not reflect child(ren) maintenance.
    2. Enforcement of Maintenance Order
      • Which assists spouse, ex-spouse or child(ren) in claiming defaulted maintenance with an existing court order.


    Victims can also receive the following means of support:

    1. Counselling
      • Providing guidance for individuals to rebuild their lives and encourage them towards independence and self-confidence.
      • MSC offers free phone counselling and face-to-face counselling at affordable rates
    2. Free legal clinics[2]
      • Free one-time advice from experienced Family & Syariah Lawyers
      • Open to individuals residing in Singapore with an income cap criterion
      • Available to individuals who are unable to afford legal advice and assistance.
    3. Information & Referral
    • Information on marital and maintenance services are provided;
    • MSC assists in referring clients to community partners such as Family Service Centres / Legal Aid Bureau & other relevant agencies.


    Victims should not be afraid to break their silence and get immediate help now.

    Contact Us

    T: +65 6571 0185


    Operating Hours

    Mondays to Fridays: 9:00 AM to 6:00 PM

    Saturdays, Sundays and Public Holidays: Closed



    [2] Ibid.

    Common FAQs for Victims
    1. During the period of separation (before divorce), can I get any sort of maintenance from my husband?


    Should you want to seek a divorce but are still married under the law, you can still claim for maintenance from your husband. You are still entitled to the maintenance after the divorce provided you do not remarry. However, the court may choose to not award you with maintenance taking your earnings into account. The above situation applies to individuals who are divorced under the Civil Law.


    1. What if my husband refuses to provide any financial assistance or restricts my spending, but I am not currently working?


    If there is no maintenance order, you can apply for a Fresh Maintenance Order. If there was a court order and the other party has defaulted payments, you can file for an Enforcement of Maintenance Order. Additionally, you can also seek assistance from the nearest Family Service Centre / Social Service Organisations.


    1. Am I entitled to Maintenance as a wife under the Syariah Law?


    A Muslim wife is still entitled to maintenance during her marriage under the Women’s Charter. The Syariah Court will not make any maintenance order for wife / children. It will instead be made through the Family Justice Courts. If there is no maintenance order, you can apply for a Fresh Maintenance Order. If there was a court order and the other party has defaulted payments, you can file for an Enforcement of Maintenance Order.


    1. Am I entitled to Maintenance after my divorce in the Syariah Court?


    There are 2 provisions granted and they are:

    • Nafkah iddah: Maintenance payable for the period in which Muslim law does not allow a divorced woman from remarrying; and
    • Mutaah: This is a “consolatory gift” upon divorce. The mutaah sum is determined by the amount of money that the wife requires daily and the duration of the marriage.

    The above 2 will be calculated and decided by the Syariah Court during the time of the divorce. Once granted and your ex-husband defaults the Syariah Court Order, you may file for an Enforcement of Maintenance Order.


    1. I am not comfortable with my children being involved in maintenance matters. May I apply for them on their behalf?


    If your children are below 21 years old, you may make the application for them provided you are the guardian / the one with custody. Your child’s siblings may also make the application if they are 21 and above.

    If your child is 21 and above, the application must be made by themselves.


    1. Are my children only entitled to maintenance after the divorce has been finalised?


    No, your children are entitled to maintenance regardless of your marital status or if they are legitimate children. The duty to maintain the child is on the parents which will continue to exist post-divorce or if one parties has remarried.


    1. I do not think the maintenance amount decided by the court is sufficient as my child is getting older and requires more. What can I do?


    You may apply for a variation of maintenance. This can be applied with the Family Justice Courts. The court may vary the maintenance order if there is proof that there is a good cause for the variation.


    1. Can I also get any assistance from the government for employment if I am unemployed?


    You can seek assistance from a Family Service Centre closest to them. A social worker / case worker will be appointed to your case and assist you with your needs. MSC can assist you by checking which Family Service Centre is closest to you and which other organisations may assist you.


    1. Should it be unsafe for me to live with my husband during the period of separation, can I get any form of assistance from the government to stay somewhere else (e.g. shelter; subsidised housing)?


    Yes, you can seek shelter assistance through a Family Service Centre closest to you. A social worker / case worker will be appointed to your case will work closely with you to understand and find a safe place for you. MSC can assist you by checking which Family Service Centre is closest to you and which other organisations may assist you.