Brooklyn Law Review


Megan E. Adams


Domestic violence is a national crisis impacting more than one in three women and one in four men. Abuse is often experienced in nonviolent forms, including emotional, verbal and economic abuse. This note focuses on the harms of economic abuse and, specifically, coerced debt. As society’s understanding of the nuances of domestic violence deepens, many states, including New York, have recognized economic abuse as a unique harm and have empowered family courts to adjudicate such abuse. While promising, many states have yet to devise a suitable remedy for such harm. This critical gap leaves far too many survivors of abuse with damaged credit that they are unable to repair on their own. The impacts of coerced debt are far-reaching and create a number of devastating challenges for survivors as they attempt to exit abusive relationships and seek both physical safety and long-term stability. This note considers both New York domestic violence laws as well as federal laws, such as the Fair Credit Reporting Act and Violence Against Women Act, and proposes a multi-level federal-state solution that allows New York’s family courts to adjudicate and certify economic abuse so that survivors may correct their credit reports and work towards financial stability.