Family Law Prof Blog

Editor: Margaret Ryznar
Indiana University
Robert H. McKinney School of Law

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Littwin: "Coerced Debt: The Role of Consumer Credit in Domestic Violence"

Angela Littwin (UT School of Law) has posted "Coerced Debt: The Role of Consumer Credit in Domestic Violence" (forthcoming California L. Rev.) on SSRN.  Here is the abstract:

Over the past several decades, the modern domestic violence (DV) movement has had some success in reforming the systems on which survivors must rely to achieve basic safety for themselves and their families. Although far from perfect in their treatment of domestic violence, police departments, hospitals, and family law courts are at least now engaged in the conversation about DV as a social problem, rather than denying its existence or importance. But there is a new form of domestic violence that has not yet been recognized and which needs to be addressed: Financial abuse through consumer credit. As consumer lending has permeated American life, violent partners have begun using debt as a means of exercising abusive control, making the consumer credit system an unknowing party to domestic violence.

Coerced debt can take a variety of forms. It ranges from abusers taking out credit cards in their partners' names without their knowledge to forcing victims to obtain loans for the abuser to tricking victims into signing quit claims deeds for the family home. This article uses original, empirical data to explore how abusive relationship dynamics interact with a complex and amorphous consumer credit system to leave many victims of domestic violence with hundreds or thousands of dollars of coerced debt.


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The author of this article points out a very sad, but very true reality. In our society, because the legal system now has mechanisms in place to combat the problem of DV, abusers are now using 'marital finances' as a weapon.

Discussing progess, the professionals who work in the legal system have made huge strides forward and will continue to make huge strides forward that combat classic cases of DV, but in all frankness, the professionals who work in the legal system will probably never be able to combats acts of DV that are committed through the 'marital finances' because it would be too hard for the legal system to prove that an abuser has committed 'financial DV'.

Posted by: Oklahoma City Divorce | Jun 24, 2011 9:29:21 AM

Thanks for highlighting the paper. Very helpful.

Posted by: Wyckoff Nissenbaum | Jun 28, 2011 10:21:42 AM

A lot of abusers will use financial strength as a means of controlling their spouse. It's a sad reality, but very true.

Posted by: Divorce Attorneys Tulsa | Aug 26, 2011 7:32:11 PM

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