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Economic abuse

The definition of economic abuse under the Family Violence Protection Act 2008.

Economic abuse was introduced as a form of family violence in the Family Violence Protection Act 2008.

Economic abuse is defined as behaviour that is coercive, deceptive or unreasonably controlling of a family member without the family member’s consent that either:

  • denies the economic or financial autonomy that the family member would otherwise have had
  • withholds or threatens to withhold financial support for reasonable living expenses from the family member or their child, if they are dependent or predominantly dependent on the perpetrator for financial support.

The expanded definition was modelled on a similar law that has been established in Tasmania since 2004 (see Family Violence Act 2004 (Tasmania)).

Examples of economic abuse

The Act then goes on to list examples of behaviour that could be viewed as economic abuse:

  • forcing a person to hand over control of assets or income
  • removing or keeping a family member's property without permission, or threatening to do so
  • disposing of property owned by a person, or owned jointly with a person, against the person's wishes and without lawful excuse
  • unlawfully preventing someone from having access to joint financial assets for the purposes of meeting normal household expenses
  • preventing a person from seeking or keeping employment
  • forcing a person to claim social security payments
  • forcing a person to sign:
    • a power of attorney that would enable the person's finances to be managed by another person
    • a contract for the purchase of goods or services
    • a contract for the provision of finance, a loan or credit
    • a contract of guarantee or
    • any legal document for the establishment or operation of a business.

Note: the Act has been criticised for failing to set out a fixed penalty to redress situations where one party has withheld money from the other party.

More information


Family Violence Protection Act 2008 (Vic)

  • s. 6—meaning of economic abuse

See Family Violence Protection Act 2008 (Vic).


The Tasmanian Family Violence Act 2004 defines economic abuse in s. 8.

See Family Violence Act 2004 (Tasmania)—Section 8 Economic abuse.

There is also a discussion about economic abuse in the second reading speech by Mr Clark (Box Hill) in the Legislative Assembly Wed 20 August 2008.

See Family Violence Protection Bill 2008.