The Domestic Abuse Act (2021) ("the Act"), which came into force in October 2021, introduced economic abuse as a form of domestic abuse in England and Wales. Under the Act, economic abuse can be prosecuted separately as a form of coercive or controlling behaviour, even where it occurs post separation (in England & Wales).

What is economic abuse?

Economic abuse can take many forms and, like a lot of domestic abuse, cannot always be easy to spot. It usually happens alongside other types of domestic abuse. Financial abuse is a type of economic abuse which involves controlling a partner (or ex-partner's) money, stealing from them or forcing them to get into debt. Economic abuse includes financial abuse but also includes controlling or limiting access to other resources such as income, food, transport and technology. According to the charity 'Surviving Domestic Abuse' 95% of domestic abuse cases include economic abuse. These statistics apply to England & Wales but it is likely to be a similar percentage in Scotland. Economic abuse frequently occurs post separation, particularly where parties have children together. Failure to declare full income or refusing to make child maintenance payments is another type of economic abuse which frequently occurs post separation. Statistically, economic abuse affects more women than men.

Is economic abuse recognised in Scotland?

In Scotland economic abuse is not recognised as a separate form of domestic abuse but would be recognised as a form of coercive control which is a crime in Scotland. The Domestic Abuse (Scotland) Act 2018 recognises coercive control as a crime if committed by a person's partner or their former partner.

Why does economic abuse disproportionately affect women?

Whilst women may be subject to financial abuse directly (such as their income being controlled or being coerced into taking out loans) there are also societal "norms" which can make women more vulnerable to economic abuse. Many women earn less than their male partner and it therefore makes economic sense for the lower earner to work part-time (or not at all) for childcare reasons. This can result in a woman's income and future income, such as pension contributions, being limited. If her income is reduced, and she is suffering economic abuse, then she may not be able to meet day to day costs such as groceries, transport costs, mobile phone costs or have access to funds to meet friends or family. Where a person's access to finances is restricted, so is their freedom.

What can be done if I am a victim of economic abuse in Scotland?

Beyond the possible criminal sanctions, there are a range of orders that a sheriff can grant in such situations and which we, as family lawyers, can attempt to obtain. and These are collectively known as protective orders. For example, it may be appropriate for a sheriff to grant an exclusion order excluding the perpetrator from the family home. In other cases, it may be appropriate to grant an interdict forbidding the perpetrator to have any contact with the victim These protective orders can also be granted on an interim basis meaning they can be granted very quickly, often in a matter of days from the time of instructing a family lawyer.

If you think you may be a victim of economic abuse, either in your current relationship or by a former partner, then our family lawyers (all of whom have experience of dealing with cases where domestic abuse is involved) can offer advice in relation to the options available to you.


Florence Fisher

Senior Solicitor