Money! Money! Money!
Catherine T. Martin
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW TO
MAKE GOOD FINANCIAL DECISIONS
CONSUMER LAW TIPS
FOR SURVIVORS OF
Why Economic Issues Are Important
Economic self-reliance prevents return to abuser
Ensure stability necessary to maintain custody of
Knowledge of rights can reduce some of the stress
of Economic Abuse
Loss of housing (eviction, foreclosure)
Topics for Review:
Can bankruptcy help?
Identifying financial goals
Resources available to help
Always pay family necessities first
Food medical care
Pay housing bills next
– Rent, mortgage
Pay at least the minimum required to keep
Pay car loans or leases if car is a necessity
Debt Prioritization continued
Unsecured debts (most credit cards, doctor
and hospital bills, merchant accounts) are of
Two Types of Debt
SECURED DEBT UNSECURED DEBT
“Secured” by collateral Not “secured” by collateral
E.g.: car loan, home E.g.: credit card bills,
mortgage, home equity payday loans, medical
Secured v. Unsecured Debt
Secured debt – pay or lose the collateral
Unsecured debt – creditor cannot take property
if you fail to pay – unless they sue
Unsecured Debt Collector CANNOT:
Threaten to take actions they cannot legally take, such
as take your home, put you in jail, or have your
Use obscene, insulting language
Call you at work after you have told them not to
Make repeated phone calls
Call at unreasonable times (before 8 a.m. and after
Contact you by telephone after receiving a letter telling
them to only communicate with you in writing.
Unsecured Debt Collector CAN:
Report the default on your credit report
File a lawsuit
If you lose the lawsuit and cannot afford to pay
the judgment, the creditor can take certain
steps to collect: freeze bank account, try to sell
personal property or even real estate.
But you won’t go to jail!
It is not a crime to be unable to pay your bills.
Who owns the house?
- Names on the Deed: You? Partner? Both?
Who owes the Money?
- Names on the loan: You? Partner? Both?
Mortgage Issues continued
Bad news: you can lose your home if mortgage
payments aren t made – even if your partner is ordered
to pay them.
Do not assume that your partner is paying the
Contact lender and request that all bills and
correspondence be sent to you.
Contact an attorney immediately if the mortgage is in
Mortgage Issues continued
Good News: HELP IS AVAILABLE:
Housing Counselors: www.phfa.org
PHFA loan programs: 1 800 822 1174
Victims of family violence in Pennsylvania
have extra protection.
Service cannot be shut-off in the winter
months, December through March
You cannot be made to pay a bill in
someone else’s name
Utility Bills continued
g protections y may need to
To get those p you y
give a copy of your PFA order to the utility
Call the P.U.C if the utility company does
not help you
– P.U.C Phone Number: 1-800-692-7380
• In Pennsylvania, most creditors cannot hold
someone responsible for a debt they did not
• If a joint debt is in default, the creditor can
usually try to collect the total from any of the
people on the account.
They do not have to divide the amount due.
What Can You Do About Joint Debt?
Try to remove your name from joint accounts or close
Remove your partner’s name as an authorized user on
Notify utility companies if you move. Cancel service in
BUT – VERY IMPORTANT:
Make sure you will be able to still get the services you
need if you change the accounts.
Most student loans are insured by the
If you are behind on your student loan, the
government can try to collect by:
– Attaching your wages
– Taking your tax refund
– Denying future student loans
Student Loans continued
Bankruptcy usually does not wipe out student
You may be eligible to set up a repayment plan
based on your income.
For very useful information, go to
Q: Is bankruptcy a good idea?
Bankruptcy can wipe out certain debts and
help you repay other debts.
Will wipe out many debts but does not provide a way to
repay secured debt.
Filing Fee: $299.00 but can be waived by the court if
your income is low.
Permits repayment of secured debts over
time – up to 5 years
e.g. Can help you catch up on a mortgage or
pay real estate taxes to save your house. You
need to have enough income to make the
payments. May not need to repay all your
Filing Fee: $274.00
Either Ch. 7 or Ch. 13 can stop most civil legal
actions, e.g. utility termination, sheriff’s sale,
tax sale, etc.
Depending on individual details, filing
bankruptcy may stop an eviction.
If you filed bankruptcy before, eligibility to file
again depends on details of past cases.
A bankruptcy may stay on your credit record
for as long as10 years.
After this Review of Financial
and Legal Basics---
What can you do with
How can it help you?
Thinking is free!
d i i
don’t just let things
Pay day loans
Credit card checks
Credit repair companies
Home equity loans
More BAD Ideas
debt and turning it into
Getting credit cards you
Making a repayment
plan you can’t afford
Use available resources
- PA Coalition Against Domestic Violence
- Housing Counselors
- Legal services programs in PA
More GOOD Ideas
Make a Budget
- Can you increase your income?
- Can you decrease your expenses?
Check your credit reports
- Free reports available at:
Even more GOOD Ideas
Identify your financial goals
- What are you trying to achieve?
- What are the obstacles to your goal?
- Who or what can help you achieve your
Take control of your financial life
By educating yourself about your rights
and making good decisions about money.
KNOWLEDGE IS POWER!
To apply for legal help at NLSA:
Neighborhood Legal Services Association
Intake Line: 1-866-761-6572
For more information about NLSA,
check out our website
Special Thanks to Amber VanSchuyver
Texas RioGrande Legal Aid
for help with these materials
Funding for this Video and PowerPoint material
was provided by the
Allegheny County Bar Foundation
This presentation contains general educational
information about the law and does not contain
specific advice about a particular legal
problem. Please use the information contained
herein carefully since the law is constantly
changing and the information may not accurately
reflect any changes in the law that occurred
following the distribution of this presentation. The
information herein cannot and should not serve as
a substitute for seeing a lawyer.
Sample Letter to Send to a Debt Collector