I met him online. In the early days he gave a very false impression of himself. The man I left was not the same person as the person I had met online.
Content warning: This article contains descriptions of family violence.
I am a victim survivor of family violence. My ex-partner was a senior member of the police force who worked in the Ethical Standards Department. Unbeknownst to me, while we were in the relationship, he was committing the crime of "image-based sexual abuse" (colloquially referred to as ‘revenge porn’).
My ex used the following tactics to perpetrate financial abuse against me:
- Prior to moving in my ex-partner told me he wanted a "prenuptial agreement" claiming he had $110,000 in equity in his property. He never went ahead with the prenuptial agreement. At the time we moved in together (soon after this conversation,) I was extraordinarily busy and I forgot about the prenuptial agreement. It was not until separation that I discovered he lied, he did not have any equity in his property and in fact I was in a stronger financial position. It really should have been me asking for the prenuptial agreement. He did this deliberately.
- About 18 months after we moved in together, I discovered he had borrowed $44,000 from his best friend prior to meeting me. He deceitfully kept this from me. He did not disclose this to the bank when we applied for a loan together either. And this is why he never went ahead with the prenuptial agreement — because he either would have had to disclose this at the time, or his deceit could be used to void any prenuptial agreement we made. Due to the abusive family law system, I effectively paid for his deceit via the appalling property settlement.
- He stole Centrelink funds (Centrelink made an error and money needed to be returned to them) to cause me a debt. He told the tenant in our rental property to stop paying rent, despite the fact that he was still living there. The rent that was paid and went directly to my ex, instead of the mortgage for the rental property. Our tenant was one of his best friends.
- My ex insisted our 4-year-old be seen by a speech pathologist and then left me with the $400 bill. Our son did not need to see a speech pathologist and there were no further appointments.
- He refused to pay half of our 3-year-old’s kindergarten fees, from the moment the Intervention Order (IVO) was served on him. He had paid for three terms, refused to contribute to the fourth and refused to pay her 4-year-old fees as well. He refused to pay half of the children’s swimming lessons fee from the moment the IVO was served.
- He deliberately delayed submitting his tax return. During our five-year relationship he was fastidious about having tax returns done on time. We separated in June 2014 and he did not submit his tax return until October. He lied to our accountant, telling him our rental property was only in his name. He convinced the accountant to withhold my tax return. The accountant processed my ex’s tax return to October 2014. At the end of January 2015 I called the accountant, assuming that my ex had still not submitted his tax return. The accountant told me he had “technology issues” and that’s why he hadn’t submitted my return. I reported the accountant to the tax practitioners’ Board.
- He stopped paying the mortgage in July 2014, days after the IVO was served.
- He lied to the Child Support Agency and told them he was paying the mortgage and that those payments should be accepted in lieu of child support. He wasn’t paying the mortgage at all.
- We had booked a holiday to Cairns. Due to separating I should have received 50% of the refunded money from the cancellation (we cancelled months ahead so were entitled to refunds).
- We were "separated under the same roof" for a period of around three months. When he was removed from the house I continued to receive bills that were incurred while we were still living together. He refused to pay for half of these bills.
- He falsely claimed in his property affidavit that I was the beneficiary of my ex-husband’s will, knowing full well I was not. Also knowing full well that my ex-husband died with a significant debt and was insolvent.
- He has failed to contribute to the children’s school, medical or dental expenses at all. The ATO reports his income as being $120,000-147,000, but he tells Child Support he only earns around $75,000 and they accept that. He pays child support but it’s always paid late and irregularly. This is another means for him to keep me on my toes and keep me feeling uncertain. I’m confident he pays his rent on time.
- And the biggest one of all — he uses the legal system to abuse me. My ex used to be a police prosecutor. He knows the law and he knows the loopholes in the law and he knows how to abuse and exploit the system. I have had 34 court hearings to date and there is no end in sight. Each day in court is a day I can’t work (and there are usually many days preparation in the lead-up). Each day in court I have to pay thousands of dollars in legal fees. The legal system automatically equals financial abuse. I cannot keep up.
On an ongoing basis I am limited in my capacity to work due to the continual post-separation abuse. I have no financial security because of this. When I left the relationship I was in a position to purchase a house and get on with my life, but my abuser has financially destroyed me via the legal system, and as a single mother I can no longer afford to purchase my own house.
We "physically" separated when my ex was removed from the house via a police represented Interim IVO. Myself and my young children remained living in the house. My ex immediately stopped paying the mortgage. For about 4 months this was not a problem because the mortgage payments were covered by the mortgage offset facility, as we were ahead in our mortgage repayments. But after 4 months the mortgage started going into arrears. I started to receive phone calls and letters of demand from the bank. I called the bank to ask what I should do. I was receiving the parenting payment and had no way of paying the mortgage. The bank told me to commence the financial hardship process as this would provide some leniency and stop the bank from sending "letters of demand". The bank told me that both of us would need to sign the required documents to do this. Initially, there was no problem and my ex signed the hardship papers in around Oct/Nov 2014. But three days before Christmas of 2014, I received a letter of demand. When I called the bank to ask what was going on they told me my ex-partner had pulled out of the hardship process. He did this to deliberately cause me more stress, a common method for committing financial abuse.
Over the following two weeks I started to receive phone calls daily from the bank from blocked numbers, harassing me for the money. I would be in tears on the phone telling them that this was my abuser's way of being financially abusive. I asked them why they didn’t call him. They told me they did but he never answers his phone. Just after Christmas the staff tried to be as helpful as they could. They would put a "pause" on their system so I didn’t receive a call every single day.
I could not believe what the bank was doing and I got frustrated and submitted a complaint to the Banking Ombudsman. The bank contacted me after being notified of my complaint and I managed to speak to someone senior and they came up with an unusual idea. At the end of January 2015 they sent me a document called "Resolution and Release". It was basically a document I had to sign that enabled the bank to offer me the financial hardship process. I was the only one to sign it. My ex had nothing to do with it. I’m not sure that it is even truly "legal" given that my ex was a joint borrower, but signing this document stopped the bank harassing me and they did not require any mortgage payments until the house sold and settled.
My ex controlled our finances, including demanding that I pay my wage into a joint account that he controlled. I barely ever logged into our bank, but during separation he claimed I had as much control of our finances as he did. It would be helpful for banks to keep a ‘log’ of all log-ins by an individual. If I used my situation as an example, if the banks kept a "log" of how many times myself or my ex logged-in they would have found I only logged in on maybe a dozen occasions in a five-year period, yet my ex would have logged on well over a thousand times.
Please note the author's name has been changed to protect their privacy.