Bipartisan NC bill would help domestic violence victims fix 'coerced debt'
A bipartisan group of state lawmakers wants to address an aspect of domestic violence that few people think of: The financial debt that victims are stuck with long after they leave an abusive relationship.
Rachel Brummert says her ex-husband racked up more than $50,000 in debt while they were married – mostly using her credit cards.
“He started spending ridiculous amounts of money,” she said, “And I wasn't allowed to say anything, because I was under the threat of violence. Anything financial was my fault. So when I left the relationship in 1995, I couldn't get a car in my name, I couldn't get a new house in my name. My credit was absolutely shot.”
A group of House Democrats and Republicans have introduced a bill that would help people like Brummert fix what’s called “coerced debt.”
The legislation sets out a legal procedure for domestic violence victims to get debts canceled and transferred to the person who’s responsible. The process would require legal proof that the debt was connected to domestic abuse.
Representative Terry Brown, a Democrat from Charlotte, is one of the bill’s sponsors.
“Once this bill passes, victims of domestic violence will be able to finally achieve financial independence, and most importantly, peace,” he said.
Republican Representative John Bradford joined Brown at a news conference promoting the bill.
“I think it's also important to note that this bill does still provide a pathway for debtors to go after the individuals who coerce the debt, meaning that they can be held accountable,” he said, “I think that's an important part of the bill.
Similar legislation has been introduced in Tennessee and other states.
Brown said he’s been working with financial institutions on developing the legal process.
The bill has support from the Center for Responsible Lending.
Brown said, “We talked with the Association for Banking, we've talked with a litany of stakeholders, and going back and forth and tweaking the language to make sure everybody is comfortable with the language.”
The bill could get its first House committee hearing soon.