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Improper Use of Credit Report Can Cause Liability



Q: Our only son and his wife have been involved in a nasty divorce for close to ten months. Because he does not have sufficient income to pay all of the debts, my husband and I have helped pay his bills and his attorney fees. My daughter-in-law now says that my husband and I should be required by the court to support him and the court should consider the potential inheritance our son will receive when we die because we have no other heirs. Because we are not yet dead, the court ruled that future inheritance is not an issue. During the trial, however, I found out that my daughter-in-law hired a detective who obtained credit reports on me and my husband and her lawyer used them in court. I did not ask to be brought into this, but now my blood is really boiling. Is there anything I can do?

A: Under the Fair Credit Reporting Act, a federal law, a consumer's credit report can be requested only to determine eligibility for credit, insurance, employment, or where there is a "legitimate business need for the information in connection with a business transaction involving the consumer." Use of a credit report for any other purpose may make the person who requested it liable for damages and attorney fees. In your situation, since it does not appear that there was a legitimate business need, we suggest that you contact a lawyer who should be able to take your daughter-in-law's focus off trying to put you and your husband in the midst of their divorce case and place it on the damages you may receive from her -- sums that can add to your son's inheritance.

Jan Collins in an editor and writer. Jan Warner is a matrimonial, tax, and elder law attorney. Send questions by email to or by mail to P.O.Box 11704, Columbia, South Carolina 29211.




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