Family And Divorce Attorneys
Divorce and other family law issues can raise a host of complex financial issues for your consumer clients. Clients experiencing family law struggles are often the targets of financial frauds, medical debt collection harassment, and other abuses. However, state and federal consumer protection laws may be able to provide some relief. Proper representation of consumers requires an understanding of a web of federal and state statutes involving consumer credit, banking and lending, secured transactions, and consumer fraud. A deep knowledge of these regulations often makes the difference, from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, the Federal Trade Commission, the Federal Reserve Board, the Federal Communications Commission, as well as the state Departments of Banking and Attorneys General.
Common Consumer Law Issues Facing Divorce Clients
- In a divorce proceeding, the husband may agree to retain the car or truck and make all ongoing payments, and this is subsumed in the divorce settlement or decree. For a variety of reasons, the husband does not make ongoing payments, and this delinquency shows up on the ex-wife’s credit report. Does the wife have any recourse to get her credit report corrected? Even though it is technically accurate as a matter of contract law - the wife owes the funds to the bank - the credit reporting laws require that the report not be presented in a misleading way or create a misimpression, so the credit bureaus have an obligation to not just parrot. See eg., Hillis v TransUnion, 969 F.Supp. 419 (E.D. Pa. 2013)
- Both the husband and wife are co-mortgagors on their home mortgage loan. The husband, but not the wife, filed for bankruptcy. All monthly payments were made on time throughout. The bank reports to the credit bureaus that the wife’s mortgage loan was “included in bankruptcy,” harming her credit score. Although this may be technically accurate, the credit reporting law carries a higher standard. The wife may have a claim against the bank or credit bureau for the reporting because it can create a misimpression that the wife has filed bankruptcy. Evantash v G.E. Capital Mortgage Serv., Inc., 2003 WL 22844198 (E.D. Pa. Nov. 25, 2003)
- Credit reports are private and may only be accessed for a “permissible purpose.” A divorce proceeding is not a business transaction that constitutes a permissible purpose for one spouse’s lawyer to obtain a consumer credit report on the other spouse, no matter how much useful financial data it would yield. A credit report authorization by the opposing spouse, or a court order, is required. See Cole v. American Family Mutual Ins. Co., 410 F.Supp.2d 1020 (D.Kan. 2006)
- Where an abuser in a relationship obtains credit in the victim's name, current legal literature speaks of the concept of “coerced debt." The damage to the victim’s credit score can be significant. Are there tools available under the federal consumer credit laws to redress the ensuing credit damage? See Escaping Battered Credit: A proposal for Repairing Credit Reports Damaged by Domestic Violence, 161 U.Pa. L.Rev. 363 (2013)
Your Consumer Protection Law Resource
Flitter Milz may be able to help you assist your client in these specialized areas of federal and state statutes and regulations. We understand consumer protection issues that arise during divorce cases, such as inaccurate credit reporting, debt collection abuse, harassing phone calls, vehicle repossession, and identity theft. If you have a client experiencing consumer protection problems, contact us. We may be able to help.