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New California Law Offers Relief to Victims of Domestic Violence From Financial Abuse

Attorney Alphonse Provinziano explains how those abused are often saddled with coerced debt

Victims of domestic violence and financial abuse will now be able to escape from debt racked up in their name by their abusers under a new California law, Senate Bill 975, said longtime family law attorney Alphonse Provinziano. Research shows that financial abuse occurs in nearly all domestic violence cases.

“It’s hard enough to leave an abusive relationship because of the psychological and financial hold that abusers often have over you,” said Provinziano “To then learn that you have to pay thousands of dollars to credit card companies that you never spent only makes things worse. This new law will help prevent these unfortunate situations.”

People who leave abusive relationships often find that their former partner has opened credit cards in their name, with research showing more than half learn that coerced or fraudulent debt adds up to more than $10,000 a year.

Under the law, which was signed by Governor Gavin Newsom and takes effect on July 1, survivors of domestic violence can provide a police report, court order or letter from a domestic violence advocate or social worker to a creditor to have debt forgiven. Creditors can still seek repayment from the abuser.

Provinziano said that it’s common for abusers to use finances to control their victims. In some cases, they may control all of the family’s bank accounts to prevent a victim from leaving. In other cases, he said they may even steal money or run up debt intentionally to ruin a victim’s credit rating.

“Abusers want to make it has hard as possible for their victims to leave, and that often includes keeping them financially dependent,” he added. “This new law will help take away one of the ways in which they maintain control.”