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Financial Abuse

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"Every time I force her to part with some money for the basics — food, bills, new clothes, school things — she starts yelling about how she left school and started work at sixteen, moved out and asked her parents for nothing."
Lochan Whitely, Forbidden

Some parents consider their children nothing more than a cash cow they can exploit for personal gain. Either the parents take the money a child earns and keep it for themselves, or they actively deny the dependent personal gain.

This can also exist in a separate form, by withholding support unless they obey all of the parent's wishes, no matter how cruel or unreasonable, without complaint. Abuse is about control, and this is controlling them through money. Bonus points if the parents are foster parents, and keep the kids around for the welfare check.

Very much Truth in Television, and enters the media spotlight regularly when one or both parents of a rising young music or acting star exploit their child's achievements. This is the reason for the Jackie Coogan Act, named after the child actor whose mother and stepfather blew through most of his money — around three to four million dollars, back in the 1920s and '30s.note 

This form of abuse also exists between spouses/partners, either when one member of a couple exploits the other financially (stealing their savings, taking out unauthorized credit lines or loans in their name, and making unauthorized and often unwise or fraudulent investments are some common methods of doing this), when they guide them towards decisions that will ensure financial dependence and limit their ability to make a living, or when they deprive the other of access to money, often as a way to keep an abused spouse from escaping. It's also frighteningly common for adult children to financially abuse elderly relatives, especially those with cognitive disabilities.

Finally, another form of it is combined with religious abuse: a religion or sect or guru demands monetary donations or time that could be spent elsewhere to the extent that the donations or lifestyle damages the givers' financial well-being, and/or demands exorbitant donations for advancing in the religious system, faith healing, initiations, or similar. The Church of Happyology is infamous for this, but there have been many other less well-known examples too.

Does not apply in situations where someone is temporarily deprived of money as a punishment. An example of this might be a child who caused damage being told the cost of repairing or replacing whatever they damaged will be deducted from their allowance/pocket money.

A Sub-Trope of Abusive Parents and Domestic Abuse; see also Elder Abuse. A sister trope would be Fostering for Profit and Taking the Kids.


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  • Skittles: The mother in "Harvest the Rainbow" refuses to call a doctor for her son, who has a skittles tree growing out of his stomach, because he's her orchard. Similarly, she considers his dream of going to college silly. From the state her son is in, he's not had a bath or change of clothes in a long time and may not be let into the house anymore. All that matters to the woman is her skittles harvest.

    Anime and Manga 
  • Hayate from Hayate the Combat Butler suffered extensive financial abuse from his parents. They even tried to sell him to the Yakuza... erm, that is, "The Very Nice Men".
  • Common plot element in Gunslinger Girl, Angelica in particular. Her parents colluded to make it look like she was in a hit-and-run "accident" so they could cash in on the insurance money to pay off some debts; it was her father who ran her over with his own car. The badly-injured Angelica ended up taken in by the Agency, which made her into a Cyborg.
  • Rumiko Takahashi:
    • There is a one-shot manga by this author that opens with a son trying to escape from his parents, since they keep trying to use his bone marrow to create gold and thus solve their financial woes.
    • Genma Saotome from Ranma has pawned his son Ranma off more than once to get material benefits.
    • The title character of RIN-NE constantly has all his money stolen by his father, who even has a magical item to convert Rinne's things into cash.
  • Yuki Sohma from Fruits Basket suffered such a fate from his Control Freak mother, who even sold him out to the already unstable Akito to make herself look better in the Sohma clan. His brother Ayame apparently used to get it too, pretty much running away from the household as soon as he could (which Yuki couldn't forgive him for, since it left him alone with their mom). Later, Ayame manages to call out their mom in regard to Yuki in public during a school meeting, and it's implied that things may have started to slowly get better.
  • Maria Wong from Descendants of Darkness, being an Idol Singer, was nothing more than a cash cow to her mother. To the point that when Maria got fed up and commited suicide, Mrs. Wong hired Dr. Muraki to revive her. Which he did... but poor Maria ended up as a Tragic Monster instead. At the end of the case, when everything's resolved, Maria asks Tsuzuki and Hisoka to wait for her for a single night so she can give her last concert, and before that she takes the chance to call out her mom.
  • Implied in the Lucky Star anime. Akira, former child star and still sort-of popular, mentioned that her mother did have some very nice purses and such that certainly weren't there yesterday...
  • Many, MANY cases in Case Closed have elements of this. There are two forms: someone kills or attempts to kill another person to collect their insurances/inheritances and ends up thwarted by Conan; or somebody else kills an Asshole Victim to punish them for driving a friend/relative to suicide or murder via financially abusing them.
  • Mwu La Flaga from Mobile Suit Gundam SEED was a victim of this, after his father Al Di Flaga cut him off his inheritance and locked him away merely for being too much like his mother. Al then went and cloned himself, with said clone growing up into Rau Le Creuset.
  • Sakuya Ookochi from Sensual Phrase gets this from his Parental Substitute. He originally was his Missing Mom Reiko's sponsor and when she died, she left a huge debt behind; noticing that young Sakuya had inherited his mom's physical beauty and musical talents, he raised Sakuya to be a good musician so he could Work Off the Debt, but gave him no moral or emotional guidance.
  • Chainsaw Man: Kobeni's parents pressured her into paying for her brother's tuition by taking an absurdly dangerous job as a Devil Hunter, which she's not remotely prepared for. To add salt to the wound, they only thought of the job because her brother was offered it, but he was accepted to college. Kobeni grimly jokes her other option was prostitution.

    Comic Books 
  • One The Sandman (1989) story has this — the abusive (foster) parents keep the kid locked in the basement so that they can receive child support, taking him out only when the health inspection comes around. However, it is implied that they were driven insane by a pair of nightmares living in the boy's mind, who needed an abuse victim who has completely shut his mind from his environment to provide them a hiding place.
  • Lady Cecilia from Yoko Tsuno's short story The Prey and the Shadow is apparently The Ophelia, locked away from the world in a Scottish castle while her uncle and stepfather William handles the family business. However, the truth is very much this: Cecilia is sane but very naive due to years of isolation, William is planning to kill her for her deceased mother Mary's inheritance and make it look like she fell into despair and was Driven to Suicide to be Together in Death with her Missing Mom. (Not to mention, he staged poor Mary's death). The Cecilia seen at the beginning was the Body Double Margaret, whom William also financially abused via forcing her into collaborating via Black Mail... and she ends up derailing his cruel gambit by confirming Yoko's bad feeling about the whole deal and asking her for help to save both of them.
  • In the original Captain Marvel's origin story, young orphan Billy Batson is living hand to mouth because, after his parents died & left him a small fortune, his evil uncle/legal guardian kept the money and threw Billy out to live on the streets. In Shazam!: The New Beginning, Billy's uncle Thaddeus Sivana adopts him only for the purpose of collecting on his parents' life insurance. In The Power of Shazam, a time travel incident that allowed Billy's parents to survive and become Captain Marvel themselves also allowed them, when they Set Right What Once Went Wrong, to keep Billy out of the hands of his uncle and to be adopted alongside his sister Mary.
  • In Runaways, among his many other abuses, Mr. Prast used to take all of the money that Klara earned from working and spend it on booze, forcing her to buy food for the both of them on credit.
  • Robin: Regardless of Tim's dismissal of the whole thing the way his father Jack uses up the money his mother left to him and sells numerous possessions of Tim's, including a car, which Jack had no part in purchasing in order to maintain a well to do lifestyle after bankrupting his company is definitely viewed as abuse by Alfred and Bruce, and after Jack's death it's clear his lawyer disapproved as well.

    Fan Works 
  • In one chapter of The Matrix fanfic Bringing Me To Life Mr. Jameson steals his son, Max's, cash and debit card before sending him to get groceries in hopes that he'll get to hit Max for 'disobeying' him.
  • In the Percy Jackson and the Olympians fanfic, Laying Waste To Halloween, Percy's father Gabe financially abuses Percy by taking away his money when he finds out that he is going to work. Luckily, Percy's boss tells him that he only makes a quarter of what he does when he asks her so he can't take all of it away.
  • Forging a Better Future: During the second half of Perils/House, it's revealed that Dinah Drake Lance stole the trust accounts of her daughters Laurel and Sara and passed the money off as the inheritance of her supposedly-deceased parents. The rest of the Lances only find this out after her actually-alive parents show up in Star City to confront her over keeping them Locked Out of the Loop and reveals the truth to them.

    Films — Animated 
  • "Aunt" Pristine Figg, the Big Bad of Tom and Jerry: The Movie has been trying to keep Robyn Starling trapped in her home so Figg and her Amoral Attorney Mr. Lickboot can have free access to the money belonging to Robyn's Disappeared Dad. Despite Robyn's presence being crucial for the two to get into the money, Figg still treats the girl like garbage and is the reason she keeps running away from home.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • The teenaged girl Babydoll was put in a mental institution at the start of Sucker Punch by her stepfather, who wanted the girl's large inheritance.
  • This is basically the plot of the 2001 movie The Glass House. The siblings Ruby and Rhett were adopted by Erin and Terry, the best friends of their dead parents... only to be targeted for death so the "new parents" can collect the kids's HUGE inheritance.
  • Jimmy MacElroy's father in Blades of Glory adopts talented orphans. He unadopts him after he's banned from competition.
  • A variant occurs in Taking Woodstock. Elliot's mother is constantly nagging him to the point of emotional abuse to put his savings and time into her failing motel. This is despite the fact that she has close to $97,000 hidden in the floorboards which she refuses to share with anyone or invest in her own business
  • In In Time, the aging gene has been found and turned off, effectively rendering everyone The Ageless. To prevent overpopulation, time is literally money, with people acquiring a year on their 25th birthdays, spending and earning it like money. Many parents in this world eagerly wait for their children to turn 25 to use their allotted year to pay off their debts. When a person's countdown hits 0, he or she dies instantly. The protagonist, Will, had this happen to him by his mother and wound up with a little over a week to live; he's spent his days living from paycheck to paycheck to survive. He's not resentful about it, though, and his mother is depicted as being generous (a fact which gets her killed).
  • Secondhand Lions: Walter's mom left him with his two crazy uncles to spy on them to find their large stack of money, and the two also get hounded by gold-digging relatives.
  • In Suffragette, the married women have no money of their own, as their husbands own all the money the woman earns, as well as the dowry she brought into the marriage. When a wealthy man pays caution to get his wife out of prison, she begs him to pay to get her friends (they all participated in a demonstration and were arrested for no discernible reason) out, too. He refuses, just to spite her, pointing out that he owns all the money in their marriage.
  • In Molly's Game, Molly's father didn't support her move from Colorado to Los Angeles, so she had to sustain herself during and after the move.
  • Attempted in The Goldfinch, when Theo's The Gambling Addict father Larry demands that he call the lawyer overseeing the trust fund that his late mother left him and asking for $65,000. The lawyer not reveals that his father has been trying to get access to the money, but fortunately, his mother decreed that the money not only only be used for his education, but be paid to the school directly.

  • Forbidden provides the page quote. Lochan and Maya, who function as parents to their younger siblings, receive money for groceries, bills, etc, only very grudgingly from their mother, who has no problem spending large amounts of money on unnecessary clothing or jewelry for herself.
  • In The Body of Christopher Creed, the mother of the title character kept track of every bit of money he earned. His ace in the hole was hiding $100 to use when he finally leaves town as food and fare money.
  • In The Metamorphosis, Gregor was the sole financial provider for his parents and family, and whether they were actively abusing this is difficult to tell. Given that it's implied that they'll exploit Grete now that her fortunes are better...
  • Harper's mother in Greywalker is revealed to be the reason why Harper was a professionally trained dancer from a single-digit age, and eventually an "aspiring" actress, and the main reason she became a self-employed per-case contract detective (having vowed never to let someone else be her boss).
  • In Maximum Ride, most of the main cast was sold to the School for $10,000.
  • The Mysterious Benedict Society has George "Sticky" Washington, whose parents were somewhat poor. Upon discovering that he had a photographic memory and had absorbed the contents of an entire encyclopedia, they began entering him in quiz competitions to earn money and placed increasing pressure on him. After he ran away, though, they became deeply regretful and spent all of the money and more to find him, going deeply into debt. After they are reunited with him, they spend most of the rest of the trilogy atoning for what they did.
  • In A Series of Unfortunate Events, a misunderstanding puts three orphaned children under the care of the ruthless Count Olaf, who is intent on using his guardianship to steal their fortune. This runs the gamut from depriving them of basic needs to attempting to marry the oldest child (an underage girl) in order to get access to the money immediately.
  • Multiple Sherlock Holmes short stories involve men who are either taking financial advantage of a woman's property or trying to get into a position where they can do so.
    • The best-known example is "The Speckled Band", in which a Deadly Doctor trains a poisonous snake to bite and kill his adoptive daughters when they're about to marry so he won't have to give the girls their dowries; he succeeds with one of them, but the second escapes and hires Holmes to investigate her sister's death.
    • "A Case of Identity" is a particularly nasty one; the man an heiress has been seeing abruptly disappears after exacting a promise that she won't marry anyone else. Sherlock discovers that her fiancé was her stepfather in disguise, wanting the money to stay in the family instead of letting the woman marry someone else. The story ends with Sherlock threatening the perpetrator with a horsewhip and lamenting how little he can do when someone is a total bastard without technically committing a crime.
  • In Unseen Academicals, Juliet's family seem to be a mild case based on stupidity rather than malice; Mr. Stollop demands that all family earnings are "pooled", but Juliet says he spends most of it at the pub. It doesn't help that only Juliet spends a lot of time working; her brothers are all football hooligans. Thankfully, when she makes fifty dollars from modeling in a fashion show, she has Glenda to hide the money.
  • The Cat Who... Series: In book #8 (The Cat Who Sniffed Glue), the Fitches — one of the prominent families in Moose County — are said to control their adult children by "giving [the kids] a taste for luxuries but keeping them poor".
  • Elemental Masters:
    • A minor character in The Gates of Sleep is a child chess prodigy whose father forced him to play exhibition games for money until the kid had a nervous breakdown. (After Dr. Pike brings the boy out of it, he teaches the boy how to pretend his breakdown removed his chess skills — meaning the boy won't be abused this way again.)
    • In Phoenix and Ashes, Eleanor's father's will left everything to her. Alison goofed and didn't make sure that the will had been changed before arranging his death, so she simply steals every penny sent to support Eleanor.
    • In Steadfast, in addition to the Domestic Abuse going on, when Katie's husband Dick finally caught up to her after she ran away from him, he lived off the good paycheck she was making from working at a music hall. He kept careful track of the money she spent so that she couldn't hide any of it away.
  • In Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle's Oath Of Fealty, Tony Rand — the architect who built the Todos Santos Arcology — is subjected to a nasty one that is implied to be the end result of his wife being a high-level Chessmaster. She supported him through architecture and engineering school, then divorced him. She then seduced him a week after the divorce was final in order to conceive their son Zach — thus negating his paternal rights completely, as he was born out of wedlock. The final settlement is a sliding scale deal in which she gets two-thirds of his income forever. As he broke ground on the world's first self-sustaining Arcology (which in Niven/Pournelle's world is basically a money machine), he's now the richest man on Earth, meaning she is the single richest woman and lives a white-collar life of leisure on the other side of the continent from him.
  • Millennium Series: In The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Nils Bjurman combines this with sexual abuse by taking control of Lisbeth's finances and using it to extort sexual favours from her.
  • In the Honor Harrington short story "Obligated Service" (Worlds of Honor 6), the Spoiled Brat cousin who is legally Claire's head of family routinely empties her bank account to cover his current whims or the fines from indulging in said whims.
  • Dolores Claiborne: Dolores has been working hard to build up a savings account to send her children off to college; when she plans to withdraw the money so she and the children can leave town and get away from her abusive husband, she discovers he'd already cleaned it out for his own use, giving her yet another reason to hate him (and, soon after, to plot his murder).
  • The Amy Virus: Cyan's parents live off the money they make blogging about how they supposedly cured her of autism. When she begins to rebel, they crack down hard and eventually threaten to have her institutionalized to prevent anyone from finding out she's still autistic. This is the last straw for Cyan, who runs away the next morning with the help of her friends Renate and Eroica.
  • Defied in Harry Potter. On learning of the fortune in wizarding gold he has inherited from his parents, Harry resolves to keep it secret from the Dursleys because he knows their dislike of anything connected with magic will not stop them from wanting to get their hands on the money.
  • In Early Riser, parents have the legal right to barter their children's reproductive and/or marital futures for their own gain, and often do so. Two of the women Charlie meets in Sector 12 are victims of this:
    • Laura's parents sold the genetic "options" to her firstborn child in order to pay off their gambling debts. Because Laura has a rare thyroid condition that makes her unable to sleep most of the time (and unable to hibernate like the rest of the population), a big corporation like HiberTech is very interested in her genes and the genes of any of her prospective children. Before they could get their hands on it, the debt was sold to Jim Treacle the Bondsman. Courts capped the legal cost of Laura's child-bearing debt at 50,000 euros, making it possible for her to "buy back" the debt (albeit at an exorbitant cost). Laura is so desperate to escape from under that debt that she wagered the genetic rights to her second child to the same Jim Treacle, just for the chance keep her future children free of legal obligations.
    • Bronwyn "Jonesy" Jones' mother bartered away Jonesy's hand in marriage to the same Jim Treacle after defaulting on a loan. Jonesy has been trying to avoid a direct proposal from Treacle for years, because if she denies him then her mother's house will be forfeit.
  • Oliver Twist: The workhouse where Oliver was born has a system where the children born there are "farmed" to a branch-workhouse to be supervised by a Mrs. Mann. Each child gets a weekly stipend so they can be decently fed, clothed and medicated, but Mrs. Mann is greedy and so appropriates most of the money for herself rather than spending it on the children.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Shameless (US): Frank Gallagher often fraudulently opens up credit cards in his kids' names. His oldest daughter, Fiona, confronts him about opening a credit card in the toddler's name.
  • An episode of Law & Order had parents that took their son to a celebrity's (a not-Michael Jackson) party so he could molest him in return for a large amount of money. They did it for the sake of their youngest son who was ill, but when the oldest son learned that the money wasn't paid after the molestation but before, he realized they'd knowingly set him up to be assaulted for the money and testified against them.
  • Law & Order: Special Victims Unit
    • One episode had white parents set their black adopted child up to be killed by neo nazis to collect the insurance money.
    • Another SVU episode had the grandmother of a little girl poisoning her in a way that resembled cancer so she could collect and pocket money from various charities, and gain sympathy from people. They also told the little girl to lie and say a famous celebrity (another not Michael Jackson) molested her so they could get a settlement. The same episode had the family of an actual victim of the celebrity making him keep quiet about his rape after they signed a contract with the celebrity that granted them a considerable amount of hush money.
    • One episode involving a domestic violence victim showed how her wealthy husband kept her dependent on him by controlling all the money and not letting her have a job. When she does try to leave, she ends up having to go to a shelter with nothing but the contents of a suitcase and her future is bleak because she has no employment history; the despair of this eventually drives her to go back to him.
  • There was an episode of Law & Order: Criminal Intent where an old woman was drugged so that her son and daughter-in-law could sell off her possessions and house.
  • Malcolm in the Middle:
    • In the series finale Lois ensures Malcolm won't get a very high-paying job without having to go to college. It is only when Malcolm is alone with his parents and he demands an explanation that they reveal throughout his life, Malcolm's parents have sought his limit and had never found one. They feel he will one day become President of the United States. Knowing this, they are forcing him to struggle and work his way through college so that he has an understanding of the financial struggles that most people face. Selfish? Yes, but for a greater cause than themselves... unless you realize that his family's financial problems are largely self-inflicted.
    • Hal and Lois intercept a $10,000 college grant for Malcolm, and while thinking of ways to use the money for themselves, Lois blows it all on an antique dollhouse in a moment of temporary insanity. They both sell off and scrimp whatever they can to replace it, which ends up being nowhere near the original amount. True to his family roots, Malcolm blows it on fancy senior pictures, since he botched his school one.
    • Lois takes most of Malcolm's paychecks and is implied to be taking some of Reese's checks as well.
    • At one point, Lois and Hal find out that since Malcolm tests so high on college aptitude tests, some credit card companies offer him free cards and accounts. Malcolm has enough sense to not use them. Hal then steals the cards to pay for a family skiing trip, without Malcolm's knowledge or permission, which he clearly never intends to pay back. And he'll never be able to pay it off. Since the charges were fraudulent, Malcom isn't liable. His father, however, could go to jail for that stunt.
    • Francis manages to avoid all of this drama by getting himself legally emancipated while still in high school, at first dealing with a similar form of financial abuse by his boss in Alaska.
  • In one episode of Married... with Children, Al and Peggy did this to Bud by accident, thinking the money in the bank account for his scholarship was a banking error in their favor.
  • A scheme to embezzle money from Child Services using this trope was central to the plot of an episode of Person of Interest.
  • Elliot in Scrubs comes from a rich family whose dad was also a doctor and who paid for all her bills. When she refused to take the OBGYN career path her father mapped out for her, he instantly cuts off all financial support leading to her living in a removal van for a few episodes. There is a bit of a deconstruction played here; Elliot is still an adult woman with her own income, happily took her father's money to live above her own wages and defied him knowing the consequences. She attempts to earn sympathy from her friends by saying they don't know what it's like to be rich and then lose it all, but they call her out on it since she still became a doctor without the student debt they have.
  • Two and a Half Men:
    • Alan suffers from this. His ex-wife Judith got most of Alan's possessions in the divorce, including his house. She also makes him pay ridiculous amounts of alimony and child support, which she spends not on Jake but herself, to get back at him... somehow.
    • Subverted in later seasons in that Judith has remarried, which relieves Alan of alimony obligations, and that Jake is an adult. This relieves Alan of child support obligations - and since Jake is in the Army, he has a regular paycheck, meaning he's not hitting Alan up for money. It appears that Alan has always been a moocher and the alimony/child support payments were just a convenient way for him to garner sympathy.
  • Mariana in The Fosters has been selling her brother's ADHD meds to give money to their biological mother who she later complains "treats her like an ATM".
  • In a case of 1000 Ways to Die, an old Physics schoolteacher is sent to a nursing home by his greedy children. (The opening narration to the case scathingly lampshades the trope). The old man is... not the victim of the case! The mean head caretaker, on the other hand...
  • The Wire: After the Barksdale organization collapses and the money flow to Wee Bey's family dries up, Wee Bey's wife De'londa pressures her teenage son Namond to become a drug dealer so she can continue her lavish lifestyle, even going on a shopping trip to New York when Namond is picked up for slinging.
  • Played for Laughs in an episode of Frasier. Frasier attempts to reintroduce prickly fellow psyciatrist Dr. Nora to her estranged mother, thinking this estrangement was the cause of Nora being such a Jerkass to her callers. Nope. Turns out the estrangement was because said mother was financially abusing her daughter and the "estrangement" was actually because Nora had escaped her. Whoops.
  • Taken to an extreme in Extracurricular. Ji-soo's irresponsible deadbeat father stumbles across the $90,000 Ji-soo has hidden in his apartment. (Despite being 18 and still in school, Ji-soo is a pimp running a prostitution ring.) What does Dad do? Steals the money, that's what.
  • The Mentalist: Jane's father, Alex. While traveling the carnival circuit, dear ol' dad took all of a $10,000 payday (that Patrick brought in by selling a con) and gave Patrick a mere pittance while he gambled the rest away with poker buddies.

  • In "Slow Down" by Brand Nubian, the speaker was in a relationship with a Troubled, but Cute girl who became addicted to crack cocaine at some point while they were together. In order to pay for the drugs, she began stealing from him (and apparently continued to do so after he broke up with her.) However, as upset as he was about her stealing money, and about what her addiction has done to her looks and personality, the thing he was most upset about is the fact that she had been selling her body to pay for her habit.
  • Blu Cantrell's song "Hit 'Em Up Style" is about a woman who goes on an expensive shopping spree at Neiman-Marcus with her friends, in order to clean out her soon-to-be-ex before she dumps him because she found out he cheated on her.
  • In "Brenda's Got A Baby" by Tupac Shakur, Brenda's parents don't care that their twelve year old is pregnant. All they care about is the money the baby could give them. This lack of support causes Brenda to run away from home.
    She tries to hide her pregnancy from her family who really didn't care to see or give a damn if she went out and had a church of kids, as long as when the check came they got first dibs.

    Mythology and Religion 
  • An inversion appears in The Bible when Jesus criticizes the practice of dedicating property to the temple to avoid taking care of one's parents. Presumably, this was either because of spite or because of a loophole that allowed the owner to use the property while not owning it, thus having his cake and eating it too.

    Professional Wrestling 
  • When The Fabulous Moolah was virtually running women's wrestling in America during the 60s and 70s, she made wrestlers training under her pay room and board, took a large cut of their earnings, forbade them from having bank accounts in their own names, and conspired many other ways to keep them too poor to break away from her. Note that this actually happened and not a part of scripted events.

  • The Bible: in the the gospel of Mark, Jesus takes the Pharisees to task over their use of man-made traditions to circumvent obeying the commandments of God — in that case, the Corban tradition (with people stating to their parents "whatever help you would have received from me is Corban (a gift to God)") to circumvent the commandment of "honor your father and your mother" in order to legitimize committing this kind of behavior to parents.
  • There are too many instances of cults scamming entire families to count, using 'one big happy family' as a flimsy excuse for their grifting.

  • The superintendent of Avenue Q is none other than Gary Coleman, who attributes his situation to this trope as part of his very first lines in the opening song 'It Sucks to Be Me'. Everyone else, who had previously been arguing amongst themselves as to whose life sucked the most, had to admit that he indeed had it the worst of all of them.
    Gary: I'm Gary Coleman, from TV's Diff'rent Strokes.
    I made a lot of money that got stolen by my folks.
    Now I'm broke, and I'm the butt of everyone's jokes,
    But I'm here, the superintendent of Avenue Q!
    Everyone else: It sucks to be you.
    Kate: You win!
    Everyone: It sucks to be you.
    Brian: I feel better now!

    Video Games 
  • Mikwa of Dragon Quest VII stands on the verge of this. A Child Mage-in training, she spends all her time practicing magic because their ruler highly values his magicians, and one of her parents wants to take advantage of this as soon as possible. Her other parent isn't so sure, but isn't able to convince their partner that they should ease up and let Mikwa be a child... until she's nearly incinerated alive by a passing wizard For the Evulz.
  • In Sonic Battle, Rouge planned to use Emerl to help her steal jewels.
  • In ENIGMA: An Illusion Named Family, Yoo Minho has been blocking all of his siblings' efforts to get their inheritances after their father's passing, and wants full control of the family fortune in order to 'keep them in line'. He's convinced that this is the only way to keep their family together: forcing them to stay and do as he commands.
    • This is also the situation with Yuna's birth parents, who only see their child as a way to pay off their own debts. Thanks to them, their child winds up being blackmailed and manipulated by her step-siblings.
  • Persona 5:
    • Ichiryuusai Madarame, a famous artist, adopted Yusuke after his mother died (his father was long dead already), but only barely gives him enough to live while forcing Yusuke to make works of art for him, which Madarame passes off as his own. Even worse, Madarame let Yusuke's mother die in order to steal her final painting and exploit her son.
    • The guardians of an old student of Sadayo Kawakami forced their ward to shoulder their debts while they lived beyond their means, simply because they were jealous of his dead parents.
    • The main villain of Chihaya Mifune's confidant turns out to be doing this, as the leader of a Church of Happyology style New Age cult; as well as making people pay extortionate amounts for seminars, he has Chihaya embroiled in a business of selling "Holy Stones", supposedly mystic orbs capable of changing a terrible fate that are actually worthless balls of table salt in reality.
    • During her Confidant, Futaba finds out her Only Friend when she was in school is being forced into being a gravure model to pay off her parent's gambling debts.
  • When you first arrive in Lakeview Valley, you're completely broke. The Sheriff arranges for you to receive a week of Valley Aid from the local bank; however, how much money (if any) you get is completely dependent upon how much the locals like you. If you don't court their favor by doing various tasks, or they simply dislike you for one reason or another, you won't get any assistance from the bank despite being signed up for that program.
    • Alternately, you can seek help from a Mysterious Benefactor who likes lurking in tree hollows and the sewers with only their glowing eyes visible. They comment on how manipulative it is for the townsfolk to put you in that position, and offer a way out in the form of paying you generous amounts of cash every day... provided, of course, you're willing to do something in return. In other words, they're attempting to use the promise of money as a way to manipulate you as well.

    Web Animation 
  • Gossip City: Kana's sister and parents stole money from her. When she found out, she decided to plant Heiji's money notes in her purse. When they tried to buy things with the fake money, Heiji forced them to make the notes by hand.

  • When Luna Travoria of Dominic Deegan first appeared, she had undergone years of parental abuse, culminating in a plot to make her commit suicide at a certain time and place - because Luna's mother could expect to receive a financial settlement from the government if Luna died while a royal knight was staying in their home.
  • A recurring theme in the second season of Tower of God is how several characters had their lives controlled by the Loan Sharks that exploited their situation.
  • In Freaking Romance, this is one of the many ways Zylith's father abuses her. He completely empties her bank account in order to force her to apply to the universities he wants her to attend.

    Western Animation 
  • The Simpsons:
    • Parodied in "Blame it on Lisa", where an orphan TV star happily explains that his money "remains unstolen" because he has no parents.
    • In another episode we found Homer spent all the money Bart earned as a baby from commercials to cover evidence of him dropping Bart off a balcony. Bart then managed to successfully sue for emancipation because of it.
  • Futurama:
    • Bender adopted kids for child support, then neglected them. When he realizes he's actually losing money on the deal, he tries to sell the kids off for their meat to turn a profit. He is arrested for "depriving children of food, selling children as food, and misrepresenting the weight of live stock."
    • In another episode a TV executive adopts the same bunch of orphans so he can use them as cheap labor for his children's TV show. It's a subversion since even with the child labor, the orphans are much better off than they were in the Orphanage of Fear, where they were forced to eat books as food. It's a Crapsack World.
  • Gorillaz bassist Murdoc vowed "never to take to the stage under someone else's direction again" after his father forced him to dress as Pinocchio and sing "I've Got No Strings" in a talent contest. "The prize? £2.50, and the chance to humiliate yourself further in the biannual county finals." (Even in the early '70s, that was not a lot.)
  • Played for rather dark laughs in the Robot Chicken episode where Lindsay Lohan was a immortal — her mother is shown asking someone hiring Lindsay to make a check out to "cash," because "that's my nickname for her."
  • Pete on Goof Troop engages in this variety of abuse with alarming regularity. He repeatedly forces his son, PJ, to do huge amounts of hard manual labor for him and generally either severely underpays him or refuses to pay him at all; though there are a couple of episodes where Pete's willing to pay PJ (and Pistol) somewhat decently, these are the exception to the rule. To avoid losing the profits for one day, he tricked PJ into doing his job while Playing Sick. He repeatedly uses both of his children as free advertising, including pressuring PJ into throwing a spelling bee and skydiving, the latter of which he wouldn't even be willing to do himself, in order to do so. And on top of all of that, he repeatedly spends his children's savings on himself.
  • In some of the later seasons of Family Guy Peter and Lois can be seen sneaking money from their children's drawers and wallets.
  • In The Cleveland Show a man and his wife were going to adopt Ernie from social service, but when Lester came to reason with the service worker to keep his son, the man adamantly says that they're only in it for the money they would receive and they have a basement full of other foster children who they don't seem to care about.
  • Timmy is subjected to this in an episode of The Fairly Oddparents after his father becomes a farmer and forces his son to do absolutely all the work himself. He resorts to trying to get the farm destroyed just so that he won't have to be his dad's unpaid farmhand forever.
  • In an episode of Batman: The Animated Series, the Sewer King abused the Hell out of a group of kids that he trained to be street urchins. Batman was INCREDIBLY angry when he found out.
  • In the Donald Duck cartoon "Donald's Crime", Donald stealing money from his nephews is portrayed as this, and he beats himself up over being a bad parent before he decides to pay it back. The obvious Fridge Logic is how Donald can even afford food, mortgage payments, and other base necessities if he's so flat-out broke that he has to stoop to stealing a few bucks from his nephews.