The process of ending a marriage can be lengthy and painful. During the months or even years it can take to finalize things legally, a lot can happen. In an all-too-common scenario, many people discover after their initial steps towards divorce that their spouse opened new credit cards or lines of credit in their names, leaving them with thousands of dollars of coerced debt.

While it has long been a crime to steal someone’s identity, a new law in Texas will protect victims of coerced debt and allow individuals to file charges against their exes for spousal identity theft. In some cases, stealing a partner’s identity can even be prosecuted as a form of domestic violence, according to the non-profit organization Vera House.

This law is not so much “new” as that it provides a very important clarification. Previously, identity theft was limited to using someone’s information without their consent. In the case of divorce proceedings, it might seem obvious that one partner in the marriage did not consent for their soon-to-be ex-spouse to use their information. However, in divorces in which domestic violence has played a role, this law now covers individuals who knew their information was being used during the time they were married but were powerless to stop it for some reason, leading to coerced debt.

Coerced debt is now a crime under this law. This can include a partner who has threatened you and one who has maintained tight control over all income sources. If you are facing a divorce and your partner has established debt in your name that you did not agree to but could not prevent for some reason, you may have options under this law. A qualified attorney, victim resource center or other agency may be able to tell you more, and the Identity Theft Resource Center is always available to help anyone with concerns or questions.

Contact the Identity Theft Resource Center for toll-free, no-cost assistance at 888.400.5530. For on-the-go assistance, check out the free ID Theft Help App from ITRC.

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