Can a Debt Collector Contact Your Spouse?

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The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act or FDCPA safeguards consumers against harassing, unfair, and unlawful debt collection methods that are all too commonly used by collection firms and other debt recovery agents. The FDCPA’s protections encompass many provisions, including in some cases, preventing debt collectors from contacting your spouse.

When Your Spouse can be Contacted

Under the FDCPA, your spouse can only be contacted under certain circumstances:

  • If he or she is a party to the debt, meaning the debt is in both of your names.
  • OR

  • If the debt collector is only seeking to locate you or verify your contact information.
  • OR

  • If you give the debt collector permission to speak with your spouse about a debt.

When Your Spouse cannot be Contacted

The FDCPA protects you from harassment, but also protects friends and family members. Spouses can only be contacted about a debt under the circumstances listed above. Debt collectors are not permitted to:

  • Call or write to spouses with debt details, if their name is not directly associated with the debt.
  • Contact a spouse more than once if the debt does not also belong to the spouse.
  • Share any information about the debt with a spouse, if the debt is not also in his or her name.
  • Leave a message with a spouse regarding a debt collection effort.

Notably, even if a debt is in both your name and your spouse’s, debt collectors are not permitted to contact you or your spouse if you notify them in writing that you prefer they cease communications. This too is a provision of FDCPA, and any debt collector that fails to cease communications after formal notification is in violation of federal law.

Contact Methods Debt Collectors Can Employ

Collection agencies and other debt collectors may only call or write to you on a reasonable schedule. Constant phone calls and mailings are considered harassing under FDCPA stipulations. Likewise, debt collectors can only contact friends, family members, or employers once, and only then if it is an effort to verify contact information or to verify employment.

Collectors that contact a third party, like a friend, family member, or employer, cannot share any information about the debt with that third party. This includes restrictions that prevent debt collectors to disclose any information that informs the third party that the communication is related to debt collection efforts.

How to Stop a Debt Collector from Communicating with Your Spouse

Debt collectors can be held accountable for their questionable and illegal practices. To stop a collection agent from speaking with your spouse, you can send a formal notice to the collection agency, demanding that they cease communications. If your spouse’s name is associated with the debt, both of you must sign the letter. Be sure to send the letter certified mail, with a return receipt, so you can prove the debt collector received the communication.

If the collection agent continues to call or write, or uses other harassing and abusive collection techniques, you can speak with an attorney. Hiring a lawyer removes the burden of direct debt communications from you entirely. Under FDCPA regulations, debt collectors may not contact a consumer if he or she retains legal representation.