**All names have been changed to protect client anonymity.**
Consumer Law Takes on Domestic Violence
Sandra’s former husband controlled everything in her life and her daughter’s life, from every dollar that was spent to where they were allowed to be every minute of the day. When Sandra was sick with shingles brought on by lupus, he would tell her that she was worthless and lock her out of the house in the cold.
Sandra finally escaped her abuser in 2009 when she obtained a domestic violence restraining order and ultimately a divorce. But the nightmare reoccurred in 2012 when Sandra received a letter from the Internal Revenue Service telling her that she owed more than $2 million in back taxes. Sandra’s abusive husband had been trading stocks online throughout that year and reported none of his gains or losses to the IRS.
Sandra was terrified. She never saw any benefit from the stock trading and as far as she knew, during the year in question the family was living on only the income from her part-time job. BayLegal went to work to file an innocent spouse relief application with the IRS. Together, BayLegal and Sandra assembled over 100 pages of evidence to meet the standard of proof to demonstrate that she had no knowledge of the stock trades, that she was a victim of domestic violence, that even had she known she was powerless to question her abuser’s decisions, and that that she had no access to the records the IRS sought. BayLegal contributed proof of domestic violence and of the husband’s control and abuse of the family’s financial situation during that time.
Just last month Sandra received a letter from the IRS informing her that her petition was granted and she was relieved of any liability for the over $2 million in alleged income from unreported investment activity. She and her daughter feel they are finally free of their abuser.
The Consumer Law Project was established by Claire Johnson, EJW/Arnold & Porter LLP Fellow.
A Family’s Struggle to End Domestic Violence
Mae and her three children were living in Section-8 housing when her estranged husband began stalking and threatening them. Mae had been abused by him for years, and now that he was out on parole she feared for herself and her children. Mae tried to get a restraining order against her husband but was unsuccessful because she had been unable to locate him to serve him the order. Mae knew she needed to move her family to a safer location, but was unsure of how to work with the Housing Authority. Mae contacted Bay Area Legal Aid for help. A BayLegal housing advocate worked with the Housing Authority to facilitate a housing transfer. BayLegal also provided Mae with a family law advocate, who helped her obtain a three-year restraining order and a divorce from her abuser, preventing her ex-husband from stalking her or contacting her in any way. Thanks to BayLegal’s advocates, Mae and her children are now safe from their abuser and are beginning a new life.
A Teen’s Chance for Hope by Accessing Essential Health Care
16-year-old Caitlin was receiving medical treatment for emotional problems. Just after her 16th birthday, her parents died in an automobile accident, leaving her on her own. Her only source of income, a small SSI survivor’s benefit, qualified her for MediCal health coverage. In the middle of receiving intensive counseling from a psychiatrist, MediCal terminated Caitlin’s health care. Without health coverage, Caitlin was unable to continue counseling or get her prescriptions filled. Caitlin contacted Bay Area Legal Aid. BayLegal investigated and learned that MediCal wrongfully denied Caitlin’s treatment due to a coding error. BayLegal appealed MediCal’s termination of benefits and advocated for an immediate reinstatement of coverage. The Court agreed and ordered MediCal to restore Caitlin’s health care coverage. Caitlin is back in counseling and able to continue the healing process under the care of a doctor.
A Second Chance for an American Veteran
Bill is a 55-year-old disabled veteran whose only source of income is Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI). When Bill learned his SSDI and health insurance was about to be terminated, he feared he would not be able to pay his rent, and came to BayLegal for help. The Social Security Administration informed Bill there was an arrest warrant issued for him from North Carolina. In 2001, Bill was arrested for driving under the influence, served several days in jail, paid a fine, and spent a year on probation. Through a clerical error, his payment of the fine was never communicated to the court, and thus there was an outstanding warrant for his arrest. BayLegal appealed for a 90-day grace period from the Social Security Administration to investigate the warrant. With BayLegal’s help, Bill was able to show that he had paid the fine and that the arrest warrant was issued because of a clerical error. Bill is the first to admit that he was going through a rough period in his life in 2001 and he is grateful to get a second chance. With BayLegal’s assistance, Bill was able to stay in his home and continue receiving medical care.