Intimate partner economic abuse in loans and guarantees: an empirical review of 10 years of cases

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Economic abuse is a form of family violence that is under-recognised and under-reported. A particular type of economic abuse is debt abuse in relation to joint borrowings for property and the provision of guarantees. The doctrines of unconscionability (both under statute and equity), undue influence, and statutory jurisdictions to set aside ‘unjust contracts’ are key doctrines for a victim who seeks to have a credit contract set aside. This article uses a quantitative and qualitative content analysis of the facts and outcomes of 10 years of Australian case law between 2008 and 2018 to examine whether victims of intimate partner debt abuse are obtaining meaningful outcomes using these doctrines. We conclude that in the case of intimate partner debt abuse caused by family violence, the legal system is not able to account for gendered inequalities of bargaining power nor provide adequate remedies. We provide recommendations for reform both at doctrinal level and as part of broader systemic reform.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)252-289
Number of pages38
JournalAustralian Journal of Family Law
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2022


  • Family Violence
  • domestic violence
  • financial abuse
  • economic abuse
  • banking
  • financial institutions
  • debt abuse
  • equity
  • Unconscionability
  • undue influence
  • unjust contracts
  • law reform
  • empirical methodologies
  • content analysis
  • qualitative
  • Case law
  • gender

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