In 2010 the New South Wales Bureau of Crime Statistics released a study based on national data that showed “women in households where money is an issue are three times as likely to be exposed to physical abuse”.
Financial stress includes things like trouble paying the mortgage, bills or credit cards. The report also found personal stress, such as a death in the family, as well as drug and alcohol abuse, also increases the risk of violence.
According to Bureau Head Professor Don Weatherburn: “Whatever socio-economic group you were in, if you're under financial stress or if you had personal stresses in the past 12 months, as [a] woman you are much more likely to become a [victim of] violence.
“It [the incidence of violence] was reduced though if you had social support, if you had family or friends you could call on at a time of crisis.”
Marie Sullivan runs ClearPath Navigating Family Law. She is a lawyer with many years’ experience in Family Law and superannuation. Her business provides professional advisory services and project management for people involved in the Family Law Court situation.
“Most people are bamboozled by the process and your lawyer and your ex’s don’t help,” explains Marie. “Many people need someone to turn to and explain what’s going on in plain English and to make sure they are on the right path.”
It sounds a bit like what you need when the Federal Budget is delivered: what does it all mean? What do the ins and outs of funding and policy changes mean for families and particularly, for women.
Marie says: “The budget further downgraded Prime Minister Abbott’s election promise of paid parental leave thus further adding to the financial pressure on families.
“The three-tiered activity test - which provides more funded childcare for women the more hours they work - is too complex. Complex childcare policy is bad childcare policy and makes women hesitant to re-enter the workforce.
“It will also be to the long term detriment of our society if the most vulnerable kids are excluded from childcare, because it is widely acknowledged that early childcare exposure and intervention for all children reaps great rewards. If you make the system too complex people won’t use it or won’t use it effectively.”
When it comes to family breakdown, Marie points out that the parties involved must attend Family Dispute Resolution or Mediation before they can gain access to the Family Court, except where there is a serious imbalance of power due to the existence of any of the four types of domestic violence: coercion and control (psychological violence); situational; violent resistance to domestic violence /or defending children; separation instigated violence.
“Not only did the budget have no announcement of increased funding to stop family violence,” notes Marie, “but it further flagged reduction in funding by 2017 for Community Legal Centres which provide free legal help, including helping women escaping family violence.”
As well as family Law, Marie has had a long history of involvement with superannuation, estate and financial planning. She has dealt with many a thorny question and issue around super, especially when it comes to family breakdown. It has left her with some serious advice for women around getting involved, informed and empowered.
When it comes to relationship breakdown it is critical for lawyers to refer women off to accountants and financial planners because of the huge implications of super monies.
“Many women do the ‘domestic goddess’ thing and they don’t get involved with where the money is going to and that can come as a shock if the relationship breaks down. There are a lot of self-managed super funds (SMSF) out there and the setups can be complex. Sometimes, inappropriately, monies get muddled with, for example, family trusts. If the ATO was to do an audit there is a risk that it may find the fund non-compliant and then the SMSF may be at risk of losing its tax concessions. The trustee of an SMSF must keep the SMSF money and assets separate at all times. These rules are designed to protect the members’ retirement benefits.
“My advice: engage with the monetary facts when you’re in a relationship and certainly, in a divorce, with the monetary facts of your case,” Marie finishes.
For more: ClearPath Navigating Family Law