Am I Responsible for My Spouse’s Debt?
In a world where “happily ever after” is the goal, conversations about financial responsibilities may not be high on the list of romantic discussions. However, as you set joint financial goals, you may be wondering, “Am I responsible for my spouse’s debt?”
In most cases, the answer is “no,” but there are some instances in which you could be on the hook for your spouse’s debt. If you live in a community property state, for example, you may be obligated to repay any debt accumulated during the marriage. We’ll examine the complexities of spousal debt and offer guidance on how to navigate this issue.
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Is my spouse responsible for my credit card debt?
When it comes to finance for marriage, one of the most common forms of unsecured debt you’ll navigate is credit card debt. According to the latest LendingTree data, the average unpaid credit card balance in December 2022 was $7,279.
Most of the time, you are not responsible for paying your spouse’s credit card debt. This is true even if you are an authorized user on a credit card. The only instances where you may be obligated to pay is if you are a joint account holder or if you live in a community property state.
Community law is when you and your spouse share both assets and debts. This is opposed to common law, which is when assets and debts are only the responsibility of the person who took them on (unless the couple took them on jointly). Currently, there are only nine community property states.
|Community property states|
*Includes domestic partnerships
When you may be responsible for your spouse’s debt
If you live in a community property state, you will likely have to repay your spouse’s debt if any of the following are true:
- You are a co-borrower or a cosigner on a loan.
- You own a joint account with your spouse.
- You live in an area where both parents and spouses are responsible for repaying essential costs, such as medical bills.
Am I responsible for my spouse’s debt after death?
If your spouse dies, you are not required to repay their debts in most cases, even if you are the executor of their estate. In the case of debt after death, the deceased person’s estate is responsible for repaying debt.
Generally, the estate prioritizes secured loans first, since those debts are backed by collateral. If your spouse doesn’t have an estate or their estate doesn’t fully cover their debts, any remaining unsecured debt will likely go unpaid.
Am I responsible for my spouse’s debt after divorce?
If you get divorced, your legal responsibility for your spouse’s debt will depend on the state laws — whether you live in a common or community law state — and any prenuptial agreements you signed. If you served as a cosigner or co-borrower, you will be responsible for those debts regardless of where you live.
In many cases, planning for debt repayment will be arranged during the divorce settlement. Keep in mind that divorce can affect your credit score. For instance, if you come to an agreement that your ex-spouse will make payments on a loan and they don’t make them, those missed payments will reflect on you if you share the account.
Can a debt collector call my spouse?
Under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA), third-party collection agencies are limited in who they can contact regarding your debt. Your spouse is one of the few people a debt collection agency can contact and discuss the details of your debt with.
To stop debt collectors from calling you and your spouse, request that they only communicate with you through your attorney. According to the FDCPA, if a debt collector knows you have legal representation, they may only contact you through your lawyer unless your lawyer doesn’t respond or allows direct communication.