Melanie “Mel B” Brown was the breadwinner in her relationship with estranged husband Stephen Belafonte, but he wielded total control over her finances, a source tells PEOPLE.
“She never knew where her money was or how she could get to it,” the source says, adding, “He set up the account, put the accountants in place; she literally never knew where her money was.”
The source says that with Belafonte, 41, in control, he would have Brown do “anything that would earn him a bit of money.”
As the couple goes through the process of divorcing, Mel’s lawyers will be bringing in a forensic accountant to sort through the finances, the source says.
The singer and TV personality, 41, filed for a temporary restraining order Monday against Belafonte, claiming that he beat, threatened and exploited her throughout their nearly 10-year marriage. He has denied the allegations.
“Mel kept turning up with bruises,” the source tells PEOPLE. “Everyone said, ‘Are you OK?’ and she just kept coming up with excuses.”
Belafonte has been ordered by authorities to leave the family’s Los Angeles home and to stay away from Brown and her three daughters: Phoenix, 18, Angel, 10, and 5-year-old Madison.
In documents related to the order, Brown details the years of their troubled relationship, with the first alleged incident occurring five months into their marriage.
Brown claimed that before a TV appearance following her Dancing with the Stars finale in November 2007, Belafonte choked and slammed her against the floor while she got ready at home. She said he would abuse her whenever she saw career success in any way, noting that “when something good would happen for me, he would beat me down to let me know that he was in charge.”
In July 2012, Belafonte allegedly accused Brown of flirting with R&B singer Usher while she taped X Factor. Brown claimed Belafonte “flew into a rage,” punching her in the face and splitting her lip.
To cover up the injury when she returned to set, Brown says she told people who questioned her that she’d had an allergic reaction to shellfish. The crew then had a doctor give her an unnecessary steroid injection intended to treat an allergic reaction.
The couple’s marriage came under fire in late 2014 after the star was hospitalized for two days, then appeared three days later on the finale of the U.K. version of The X Factor with what appeared to be bruises.
X Factor producer Simon Cowell attempted to procure legal and financial advice for Brown at the time, a source tells PEOPLE.
Brown tried to leave Belafonte several times, she said in the documents. But he allegedly threatened to destroy her career by releasing sex tapes and take her children.
“I have lived the past decade in fear that [Belafonte] would release intimate videos of me that would embarrass me and damage my reputation and my career,” she claims in the filing. “Once [he] made the threat of releasing videos, it became impossible to say no to him, giving him complete control.”
In divorce papers filed on March 20, Brown listed their date of separation as Dec. 28.