Is My New Spouse Responsible for My Medical Debt?

When I get married will my husband have to pay on any of my prior outstanding bills?

When I get married will my husband have to pay on any of my prior outstanding bills?

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Bill's Answer
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  • Examine which spouse is responsible for debts incurred before marriage.
  • Review how living in a community property state can affect financial responsibility.
  • Keep assets separate, if one spouse is threatened with collections.

Thank you for your question about the debts you brought into your marriage and your spouse's responsibility to pay them.

Which Spouse is Responsible for Debt Incurred Before Marriage?

The quick answer is: No! Your husband will not be held responsible for your debt. Whatever debts you incurred before marriage will be your responsibility alone. But, if you jointly apply for a mortgage or a loan, BOTH of your credit ratings will be analyzed if you both apply together.

Community Property States

If you live in a community property state, debts incurred during the marriage to benefit the community (your family), such as credit cards used to purchase items which will benefit both spouses, are considered community property, and are therefore owed by both spouses regardless of whether or not both spouses are listed on the credit card. For example, if you lived in Washington State and incurred debt during your marriage, both you and your husband, as a marital community, could be sued to collect on the debt. If a judgment were obtained against you, both yours and your husband's bank accounts could be levied to enforce the debt.

However, even in community property states, many creditors do not go to the trouble of suing both spouses, as doing so tends to complicate the legal process involved in obtaining a judgment. For example, in California, most credit card companies only sue the spouse that actually opened the credit card account. If the creditor chooses to sue only one spouse, and thus obtains a judgment against only spouse who opened the card, the creditor can generally only levy or garnish the assets of that spouse. If you live in one of the community property states mentioned above, and have defaulted on a credit card debt in your name only, I encourage you to consult with an attorney to discuss the possible ramifications for both you and your husband. Since community property schemes vary widely from state to state, it is important to discuss your situation with a legal professional familiar with your states? marital property laws. If you would like to read more about community property in general, I encourage you to visit the Bills.com community property page.

If you would like more information about credit, please visit our credit resource page.

I hope this information helps you Find. Learn & Save.

Best,

Bill

Bills.com

84 Comments

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  • 35x35
    Apr, 2013
    April
    If I have a substantial medical debt of about $25,000 from three years ago in Colorado how do I know when or how much they can garnish from my personal checking account?
    0 Votes

    • 35x35
      May, 2013
      Bill
      A medical-debt creditor must obtain a judgment before it can levy your bank account or garnish your wages. With a judgment in hand, according to the collection laws in Colorado, the entire amount in a bank account with your name on it could be levied. Additionally, 25% of your wages could be garnished, after certain mandatory deductions are subtracted.

      Check your credit report and see if there is a judgment against you. Look in the Public Records area of your report. If you don't have a judgment, make sure you respond to any summons you receive. If the creditors don't have your current address, you may not receive any notice of a lawsuit, but could first become aware of a judgment when a bank account is hit or your payroll department informs you that your wages will be garnished.

      Also, when checking your credit report, note the date of last payment on the debt and pay attention to the statute of limitations on the debt. Your medical debt likely falls under the SOL for a written contract, which is 5 years in Colorado.
      0 Votes

  • 35x35
    Apr, 2012
    Cynthia
    I live in Texas and was recently married. I own a home which only I claim homestead on; also, I am the only person named on loan docs and the deed. I am selling my house to purchase another. I applied for a loan using only my name and credit. My husband has tax debt incurred prior to our marriage. We file taxes separately.
    1. Does his name need to be on the deed for the new house?
    2. Can the IRS place a lien on the new house if the deed and loan is in my name?
    0 Votes

    • 35x35
      Apr, 2012
      Bill
      1. A spouse in either a community property or common law state may own real property separately. You need not apply for a joint home loan, nor title the property in both spouse's names. It is common in community property states for lenders or title companies to require a spouse to sign a waiver that says basically, "Yes, I know my spouse is buying separate property."
      2. You mentioned residing in Texas, which is a community property state. In community property states, an IRS tax lien for one spouse applies to all community assets, including the other spouse's wages and community property. If you buy the property you mentioned with community assets, then it is available to the IRS for a lien. See IRS documents Part 25. Special Topics, Chapter 18. Community Property, Section 4. Collection of Taxes in Community Property States and Part 25. Special Topics, Chapter 18. Community Property, Section 1. Basic Principles of Community Property Law for details.

      Consult with a tax lawyer for a more detailed analysis of your situation, in particular if you are using your own separate property to pay for the home you are purchasing.

      0 Votes

  • 35x35
    Mar, 2012
    Clayton
    My wife acquired a substantial amount of medical debt while living in Colorado years before we got married. We live in Wyoming and she is currently unemployed. Collections surprised her today and had her served by a sheriff. The paper she needs to fill out is asking for my information (name, address, phone number etc.) and it states she can be held in contempt if it isn't filled out completely, notarized and returned within 10 days. Does she need to include my information, and can collections come after me for her unpaid medical bills because we are married now? I have outstanding credit, but more important, I have a family to support and can't afford garnished wages. Thank you in advance for any advice.
    0 Votes

    • 35x35
      Mar, 2012
      Bill
      The document you received raises several questions in my mind. To whom are you supposed to return the questionnaire? Did a Wyoming court issue the document? Has a judgment been entered against your spouse? Wyoming is a common law family law state, so I find it curious a court would demand financial information about a debtor's spouse.

      Take the documents you received to a lawyer who has experience in civil law, or more specifically, consumer law. He or she will advise you if and how to complete the document in question. I realize a lawyer's time is not cheap, but if the document is one your spouse can ignore without legal recourse, then the lawyer's fee was well spent.
      0 Votes

  • 35x35
    Mar, 2012
    Derek
    My wife has bad credit and owes the IRS money from tax debt. The return she owes money on was filed before we were married. We just filed a joint return for the first time. I am afraid by doing this, the money that she owes from before we were married will affect my credit score. Will this happen? She also has collectors coming for her for debt she incured years before we were married and they have been calling me now (all the time). Will that debt affect my credit score and am I liable for that debt now too?
    0 Votes

    • 35x35
      Mar, 2012
      Bill
      The IRS tax debt is not your responsibility and will not affect your credit score. If you file taxes jointly, file an injured spouse form, too, so any refund you are entitled to receive does not go to her debt.

      Her non-IRS debts will not show up on your credit report and you are not responsible for them. However, if a lien is filed by a creditor or by the IRS against her and you and she own property together, you will be affected by the lien that encumbers the jointly-owned property.
      0 Votes

  • 35x35
    Feb, 2012
    Lindsey
    I live in new york state and my boyfriend and I have been talking about marraige. I am a bit concerned though due to the fact that I have debt from a previous relationship. I have had several issues with debt collectors causing me troubles (bank wise) even though they legally cant cuz I have SSI. My question is can the creditors go after my spouse for my debt if we were to get married?
    0 Votes

    • 35x35
      Feb, 2012
      Bill
      The general rule is that spouses are not liable for each other's pre-marital debt, but there are exceptions. Avoid joint accounts. Any assets, including a bank account, held jointly will be targets of a creditor's collection attempts.
      0 Votes

  • 35x35
    Jan, 2012
    Chris
    I co-signed on my daughter's college loan. She defaulted now it is my responsiblity. I am about to get married. I live in Wisconsin. Will this also become my soon to be husband's debt also??
    0 Votes

    • 35x35
      Jan, 2012
      Bill
      As I read Wisconsin's community property law, the answer to your question is no, however, I hasten to add that I am not a Wisconsin lawyer and therefore am incompetent to answer your question.

      No two community property states use the same set of laws, and Wisconsin's statutes are especially unusual. Consult with a Wisconsin family lawyer for a precise answer to your question.
      0 Votes

  • 35x35
    Dec, 2011
    Sarah
    I live in Michigan. My husband owned his house for 7 years before we got married. I am not on the deed or the mortgage or mortgage loan. Basicly I am in no way attached to the house. He forclosed the house and is filing bankruptcy. I am trying to get a mortgage and the question is...Have you directly or indirectly been obligated on any loan which resulted in forclosure... I'm wondering how to answer this question? The bankruptcy lawyer told us I am in no way effected by my husband's bankruptcy filing. Just wondering if you can help?
    0 Votes

    • 35x35
      Dec, 2011
      Bill
      Listen to your lawyer. In my opinion, the question is overly broad when it asks if you were "indirectly obligated" on any loan resulting in a foreclosure. What does "indirectly obligated" mean? The law does not recognize "indirect obligation" — a person either has contractual liability or does not.

      My opinion: Because your spouse purchased the property before your marriage, you do not live in a community property state, and you are not a signatory to the loan, you have no liability for the loan or foreclosure.

      Your credit should not be affected by his bankruptcy, as long as you continued to pay on any joint accounts he included in his bankruptcy.
      0 Votes

  • 35x35
    Nov, 2011
    Audrey
    My husband and I filed separately, if he owes the IRS taxes and also has a owes a mortgage in his own name. If I file for divorce, do I have to pay for his debts? These debts are all incurred by him and all in his own name (i.e. mortgage, property).
    0 Votes

    • 35x35
      Nov, 2011
      Bill
      You are responsible for IRS taxes only if you are a party on the return. As regards debt taken on during the time of marriage, your obligations will be determined by state law in general and whether the state is a community property state.

      I recommend that you contact a local lawyer for legal advice. Anyone getting a divorce, where there is property involved, should consult with an attorney.
      0 Votes

  • 35x35
    Oct, 2011
    Jamia
    My new husband has Tax debt from several years prior to our marriage. Can the IRS come after my personal bank accounts and student loan disbursements? I am terrified they will take the money for my college education.
    0 Votes

    • 35x35
      Oct, 2011
      Bill
      Tax liability that one party incurred before the marriage is not transferable to the other spouse. The IRS has no claims on your accounts, refunds or student loan disbursements. However if the IRS is pursuing one party, any joint accounts in that party's name are fair game for a levy.

      I recommend that your spouse deal with his tax debt by:
      0 Votes

  • 35x35
    Oct, 2011
    brianna
    My fiance has issues with payroll taxes with his biz. We live in California and are planning on getting married. If we got married in a non-community state, but still live in California, can the IRS take money out of my checks as well? I'm having a hard time getting a clear answer on this through research online.
    0 Votes

    • 35x35
      Oct, 2011
      Bill
      The community property status is not at issue. You are not going to be garnished for his payroll tax issue. If he ends up with a personal liability and in IRS collections, you should not have a joint bank account, as all funds in it would be at risk.

      If you file a joint tax return, when he has a personal liability, your refund would be snagged, though you could work to get it back through injured spouse (not innocent spouse) relief. Consult with a tax professional if you are going to file a joint return.

      Separately, your fiance needs to work out some kind of solution regarding the payroll tax debt. If he can come current on his most recent two quarters, he should be able to work out a payment plan. If he is having a problem he can't seem to resolve, and especially if he has an IRS Revenue officer assigned to his case, he should speak to a reputable tax relief firm.
      0 Votes

  • 35x35
    Oct, 2011
    Jen
    I'm having a panic attack. When I was 18 my grandparents had co-signed a student loan for me. I defaulted on that loan. I recently got married a few months ago. Now they are saying they are going to sue me and my husband and put a lien against the house. My name is not on the house and this was pre-marriage debt. Is he going to be affected by this? Can they also sue him and put a lien on the house when my name isn't even on it? I'm panicking and don't know what to do. We have two small children. Also, what would they be sueing me for when the money isn't owed to them? Please help! I need advice. I'm hoping they can't do anything to my husband. He has always had perfect credit and the sole provider for the family. I am only working one day a week and have terrible credit. I would want them to go after the little bit of money I make and not the money my husband makes to keep a roof over our heads. This was not his debt to begin with.
    0 Votes

    • 35x35
      Oct, 2011
      Bill
      I can't give you legal advice, but will share a few thoughts.

      What a creditor can do to you depends, in part, what state you live in. For instance, if you read about California student loan defaults, you will see that a spouse can be held liable for pre-marital student loan debt.

      I recommend that you speak with an attorney, to understand what family income and assets are at risk.
      0 Votes

  • 35x35
    Sep, 2011
    Renee
    My husband was married once before. He and his ex separated in 2007 and divorced in 2009. His credit is ruined from debt they created during their marriage. My question is this: is she responsible for paying half the debt (most is in his name as she didn't work) and how do we go about getting her to pay her half is she is indeed responsible for it? Nothing was noted in their divorce papers regarding these debts, all of which are now in collections. We are trying to repair his credit so we can buy a bigger house in about 6 years.
    0 Votes

    • 35x35
      Sep, 2011
      Bill
      No two divorce agreements or decrees are identical, and all are very dependent on minute facts in each couple's situation. It would be naive and foolhardy of me to weigh in with an opinion here based on the few facts at hand.

      Should the debts be split 50-50? Not for me to say. Did the lawyers and court do either party a service by ignoring the joint debt issue? Absolutely not. I see four options:
      1. Hire a lawyer to litigate the issue with the ex-spouse.
      2. Convince the ex-spouse to resolve the issue with the aid of a professional mediator who both hire.
      3. Work out the debt issue alone with the ex-spouse mano a mano, as it were.
      4. Pay off the entire debt on his own.

      Which is the correct solution depends on the dynamic between the individuals, and the amount of resources available to each.

      0 Votes

  • 35x35
    Sep, 2011
    beth
    The father of my children and I have recently got back together and are thinking about getting married but he owes a large amount of unpaid child support because I collected welfare for our children. What will happen to this debt? Will it hurt my income or be deducted from my income tax returns? Will I be in any way responsible for his dept?
    0 Votes

    • 35x35
      Sep, 2011
      Bill
      Child support laws vary by state, so it is impossible for me to make a one-size-fits-all answer to your question. Consult with a lawyer in your state who has consumer law or family law experience. My guess — note that word choice — is that the fact that the father and mother resumed (or started) cohabitating or became married will not vacate past due child support payments.
      0 Votes

  • 35x35
    Sep, 2011
    Jen
    Hi. My husband graduated school with a lot of student loans, but graduated with a good paying job. In order to finish school without much income, we had to let some of my credit cards go, so my credit is hurt...trying to protect his as much as possible. We are in a better place financially, but still paying my credit cards. In applying for a mortgage in VA, do my credit cards/will they affect his ability to get a mortgage? They come out of our joint bank account. If so, what can be done?
    0 Votes

    • 35x35
      Sep, 2011
      Bill
      One or both spouses may apply for a home loan. If Spouse A has a steady income history, excellent credit, a low debt-to-income ration, and the appraised value matches the purchase price, then Spouse A will almost certainly qualify for the home loan alone, regardless of Spouse B's income, debt-to-income ratio, or credit score.

      Regarding the joint account, they create more trouble than they solve. If Spouse B is at risk for an account levy, then both spouses should open separate accounts using their own Social Security numbers alone, and close all joint accounts.
      0 Votes

  • 35x35
    Aug, 2011
    Amy
    I live in NE. I have student loans that I didn't pay on for years. I owe around 40k now and my wages are being garnished because I was unable to pay as much as they wanted a month. I want to know, when I get married, will he be effected or responsible for the repayment in any way? Right now my loans are owned by the Dept of Ed but are being handled by a rather aggressive collection agency.
    0 Votes

    • 35x35
      Sep, 2011
      Bill
      Your spouse will not be held liable for your debt. If you default on a payment plan, joint assets, such as bank accounts, could be garnished. He may need to file taxes separately, as his tax refund could be diverted to pay your debt, were you to file jointly.
      0 Votes

  • 35x35
    Aug, 2011
    Martin
    I live in California. My wife and I were recently married. Several years prior to our wedding she foreclosed on her condo. Her larger loan from her 80/20 (or maybe 80/10/10?) is already done and done, but she continually gets collection notices on the smaller loan which we think should have already been foreclosed upon. We are concerned that now we are married they may try to come after my assets, which includes the house I purchased for us, and the savings I have built for us - all under my name. So, question #1, can the collection agency come after my assets? #2, should the collection agency still be contacting her if she has already foreclosed on the property? Appreciate it!
    0 Votes

    • 35x35
      Sep, 2011
      Bill
      Please read the answer I wrote about community property debt to a person that sent in a question via the Ask Bill feature. As you will read, it is possible for a pre-marital debt to be collected from the assets of the community. I suggest you speak with an attorney, to clarify your responsibility and to see if any of your assets are not community assets, so they would be free from collection efforts for her debts.

      The fact that she had a foreclosure does not mean that she is free from collection efforts for a deficiency balance. You need to find out if her loan was a recourse or non-recourse loan.
      0 Votes

  • 35x35
    May, 2011
    Kim
    I saw the article stated the credit card debt in only 1 spouses name may be that person's responsibility. In my case, my husband used the card for what looks like groceries, but it was for his liquor and cigarettes, so it looks like it was for community items. He admitted in a court document that he dated during our marriage, and even though charges for dates may not be on the card, as cash was used, couldn't the court or mediator see it as using the card for family items, because he was cash poor from using it to date other women? I'm trying to get out of paying half of his $20,000 debt, the card being in his name. I have my own which I paid off regularly. Thank you for any helpful advice.
    0 Votes

    • 35x35
      May, 2011
      Bill
      Consult with a lawyer in your state who has family law experience. Each jurisdiction (each state) will answer this type of question differently. Some will be more sympathetic to you than others. I realize this is not the answer you were seeking, but I really want you to consult with a local attorney who knows the local case law.
      0 Votes

  • 35x35
    Mar, 2011
    Sherry
    My ex-husband and I voluntarily turned back in a vehicle in 2003 or 2004. After the creditor sold the vehicle, there was a balance of $5500.00 left over, which only two or three payments were made. In 2007, I divorced and in my divorce decree, it lists my ex and I jointly responsible for the debt. However, in January 2011, I received a 1099C for the whole amount. I wrote a letter to the collection agency stating I should be responsible for only half of the debt and sent a copy of my divorce decree. However, I cannot remember if the vehicle was in my name only or if he was the co-signer. Do I have to just suck it up and move forward or is my thinking correct that my ex is responsible for half of the debt?
    0 Votes

    • 35x35
      Mar, 2011
      Bill
      The frustrating thing about divorce decrees is that they are binding on the ex-spouses but no other parties. The creditor in question is bound to the terms of your loan contract, but not your divorce. If the judge ordered your ex-spouse to have 50% liability for the deficiency balance (or other costs relating to the voluntary repossession) then you have a cause of action against your ex-spouse, but not the lender.
      0 Votes

  • 35x35
    Feb, 2011
    Colin
    Hello, My employer just received a notice to garnish my wages. The debt is from my wife from a defaulted payday loan and a bad check (two seperate instances - same collection agency). This happened a few years before we were married although we were living together on her own seperate checking account. We live in Washington state.
    0 Votes

    • 35x35
      Feb, 2011
      Bill
      Washington state is follows community property family law, and not the common law. Did you or your spouse receive notice of the pending lawsuit against you for the breach of contract actions? It may have been called something like, "Summons to Appear" or "Summons and Complaint." If not, then find a lawyer in your state who has experience in civil litigation or consumer law, and ask him or her about filing a motion to vacate the judgment. Also, ask for a copy of the garnishment notice. It would not surprise me that a payday lender or its collection agent would submit a bogus garnishment order to your employer in hopes that either 1) you are frightened into paying the loan, or 2) an unwitting payroll clerk accepts the bogus order as genuine and starts garnishing your wages.
      0 Votes

    • 35x35
      Feb, 2011
      Colin
      We did receive a summons about a 8 months ago, in which I contacted the collection agency and told them that the debt occured before we were married. They asked the date that we were married and told me they would get it straightened out. I was careless and did not respond to the summons via their attorney which I should have done in retrospect. The garnishment order looks legitimate, with a case number and naming of the district court, etc. Thanks for your advice.
      0 Votes

  • 35x35
    Jan, 2011
    Charlotte
    In Virginia, my bf and I have been living together for a number of years. we are considering marriage. He has a ton of credit card debt, >75k, most incurred prior to our getting together but some recent due to medical bills. If we marry would I be liable for any of his debt? We jointly own a house holding title as joint tenents with rights of survivorship. Could a creditor force a sale of the house for his half? If we marry could a prenup have force of law so that I would not have liability for any additional credit card debt he might incurr?
    0 Votes

    • 35x35
      Jan, 2011
      Bill
      Virginia is a common law state with regard to family law. This means each spouse's separate assets and debts are, well, separate. You have no liability for your spouse's separate debts, and your spouse has no liability for your separate debt.

      Assuming your spouse is sued for breach of contract for failing to repay a debt, and the creditor receives a judgment, your spouse's assets are at risk. In most states, and I confess I do not know if Virginia follows this rule, a joint asset that is not otherwise exempt is at risk to judgment-creditors. Consult with an attorney to learn if placing the property in your name (by way of a quit-claim deed), will insulate the property from a lien. I was unable to determine for certain if Virginia law allows a judgment-lienholder to foreclose on real property.

      Generally speaking, an ante-nuptial contract (pre-nup) binds the spouses, but has no effect on the rights of third parties. In the situation you described, there would be no harm in the two of you to agree in advance how each other's finances will be handled in marriage. In fact, I would recommend it.
      1 Votes

  • 35x35
    Jan, 2011
    DENISE
    I live in CA and have a substantial amount of student loan debt, all current. What I want to know is if I marry my fiance and something happens to me can he be held responsible for any of my student loan debt that I aquired prior to our marriage?
    0 Votes

    • 35x35
      Jan, 2011
      Bill
      Please see the Bills.com resource California Student Loan Defaults that discusses California law, spousal debt, and student loans. Please ask any follow-up questions you may have on that page.
      0 Votes

  • 35x35
    Dec, 2010
    Mark
    My gf and I live in MD. She lost an unemployment ruling and now owes a large amount back unemplyment which she has not started to repay. We think they will take a portion from her tax return, but aren;t sure. Either way, if we marry will I be in any way liable to this debt or can my returns be affected? Thanks!
    0 Votes

    • 35x35
      Dec, 2010
      Maryland reserves the right to seize tax returns administratively in some situations. Alas, I am unable to determine if unemployment overpayment is one of those situations. Consult with a Maryland attorney who has experience in consumer law to learn if a tax return is fair game to the Maryland Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation Division of Unemployment Insurance. Ask the attorney if a refund on a joint tax return is subject to administrative garnishment.
      0 Votes

  • 35x35
    Nov, 2010
    Aida
    My question is the following. I got divorced and in the divorce decree states that he has to be responsible for his car I have to be responsible for my car. His car was under his name as primary and I was secondary. He was requested several times to refinance and put the car under his name only. He failed to do so and got a repo. Now we both received a letter stating that, the uncollected debt will be report to the IRS. Am I responsible for that or should he be responsible for that? Taking in consideration that he failed to follow the court order?
    0 Votes

    • 35x35
      Nov, 2010
      Bill
      The divorce decree does not trump the vehicle financing contract as far as the creditor (the vehicle financing company) is concerned. That is why the decree ordered your ex-spouse to refinance the vehicle. You have liability for the deficiency balance and the imputed income that will appear on the 1099-C. However, the decree gives you a right to collect your damages from your ex-spouse. This means that if, for the sake of argument, you have a tax liability that costs you $100, you can sue your ex-spouse to recover the $100. Of course, I made up the $100 amount and you can sue your ex-spouse for the amount of your actual damages.
      0 Votes

  • 35x35
    Oct, 2010
    JACOB
    I live in wisconsin and i filed bankrupsy about a year ago. I unfortunatly also have now 80,000 dollars in private student loans which wernt dismissed. I am most likely going to default on those loans due to unemployment and the intrest alone i cant afford. so the question is how would this affect my future wife if at all???? ps i have no assets
    0 Votes

    • 35x35
      Oct, 2010
      Bill
      If Wisconsin followed the same general rules for community property that eight of the other ten community property states do, then the answer would be easy: spouses become liable for each other's debts upon marriage. However, when Wisconsin adopted the community property laws in the mid 1980s, it added some interesting twists and caveats to the conventional debt rules. I have studied Wisconsin's debt laws, but am not a Wisconsin attorney and am not competent to answer your question with any degree of confidence. Before you marry, consult with a Wisconsin family law attorney about both soon-to-be-spouses' liabilities, and whether an ante-nuptial agreement can remove your spouse from liability.
      0 Votes

  • 35x35
    Sep, 2010
    Bill
    I agree that it is smart to not co-mingle any assets with your fiance. I advise keeping separate bank accounts. Given that California is a community property state, I think it wise for you to consult with a licensed estate planning attorney in California. This way, you can structure your finances in a way that offers the best protection for both of you. If he does not already have a solution worked out with the tax authorities, I recommend that he contact Freedom Tax Relief" to discuss his options and to make sure he protects himself from a possible wage garnishment or bank levy. If you file taxes separately from him, you will not have your refund diverted to pay his tax debt, making it so you need not worry about the injured spouse relief issue.
    0 Votes

  • 35x35
    Sep, 2010
    Barbara
    I live in California. I recently bought my own home in here. I am planning to marry a man that currently lives in another state. We will be married and reside in California. He owes State (from his state) and Federal Taxes, and he owes a large amount of federal restitution (white collar), which all took place before I met him. I know that I can file an "injured spouse" form with the IRS regarding my taxes, but the bigger question is what about after he dies? Will I be liable for any of his debt with the FEDS or his home State? I thought doing a prenupt would be the best solution, making sure we do not comingle anything. Would that be fullproof with Uncle SAM should he die in 10 years? I do not want to inherit any of his past debts. Thanks
    0 Votes

  • 35x35
    Aug, 2010
    Bill
    In what state do you reside? Ignoring for a moment the fact that you have no legal liability for any debt incurred by your ex-spouse after the date of your divorce, unless you live in Ohio the statute of limitations for the debt is long since passed.
    0 Votes

  • 35x35
    Aug, 2010
    Dan
    I divorced Jul.2000. Ex-wife made the bills on Sep.2000. So the bills come after me. How can I protect myself from obvious debts that she incurred, solely benefited from and then does not have the character to responsively pay? Thank you
    0 Votes

  • 35x35
    Jul, 2010
    Bill
    Yes, and yes. Joint accounts are vulnerable to levy even if only one person is responsible for the debt. Joint accounts are a bad idea for the reason you cited. Instead, open separate accounts under separate tax ID/Social Security numbers at the same bank or credit union and transfer funds between the accounts as necessary electronically.
    0 Votes

  • 35x35
    Jul, 2010
    Starrla
    My husband has debt from 5 years before we even knew eachother existed. We reside in Oregon. I added him to my bank account after we got married and recently our account was garnished for his debt...can they do this? If so, should we have seperate accounts?
    0 Votes

  • 35x35
    Jul, 2010
    Bill
    Regarding your credit scores, there is no merging of credit scores upon marriage if you keep your accounts separate. One spouse can languish in the 500s and the other can soar in 700s. Regarding your liability, that is a different and more complex question. You will reside in a community property state, which means you will incur your spouse's liabilities upon marriage. However, it is rare for creditors to pursue spouses in community property states. You are assuming a risk of creditors attempting collections from you when you marry. However, risk is a small one. Think of it as a reverse lottery -- you may lose big but most likely will not. On the other hand, if you are well-known wealthy person and your marriage is in all of the papers, then it is safe to assume your husband's creditors will take notice.
    0 Votes

  • 35x35
    Jul, 2010
    Amber
    Hello: I am getting married in the state of California, and reside in the state of Arizona. My husband to be has a bad credit score and alot of debt. Am I going to incur his debt as mine when we get married and thereby negatively affect my credit score?
    0 Votes

  • 35x35
    Jun, 2010
    Bill
    I cannot answer your question about the Texas Medicaid Program and your spouse's eligibility. Because Texas is a community property state, the spouses have liability for their own debts as well as the debt of their spouse.
    0 Votes

  • 35x35
    Jun, 2010
    Jeff
    My wife miscarried and went to ER with no insurance a few days before we got married. She has no job or SSN. Now she has a bill of $3000 and cannot pay. Am I responsible for the bill? If she were single, should would have been eligible for medicade but now that she's married, we are not sure. BTW, we live in TX.
    0 Votes

  • 35x35
    Jun, 2010
    Bill
    You may not be contacted regarding this debt because the debt is not yours. However, if the creditor has the option of suing both you and your spouse because you reside in a community property state. The fact that you are separated may or may not be significant under Washington law -- consult with a Washington attorney who has experience in family law regarding this issue. Do not let the pending divorce linger because you are both exposed legally to the other's misfortunes while in the separation-but-not-divorced limbo-land.
    0 Votes

  • 35x35
    Jun, 2010
    Danielle
    I was recently contacted at work by a collection agency regarding a debt my husband incurred for repairs on a vehicle that is in his name only and occured during our separation. We are currently still separated (but no legal paperwork has been filed)and live in Washington State. Can I be held responsible for this debt, and can the collection agency seek to levi my bank account?
    0 Votes

  • 35x35
    Mar, 2010
    Bill
    Generally speaking, your boyfriends debts will remain his. Some states have what is called community property laws. I encourage you to read an article I wrote discussing community property law, Advice on Credit Card Debt and Community Property Law. To be sure you should consult a licensed attorney in your state to discuss whether you can be held responsible for his debts after marriage.
    1 Votes

  • 35x35
    Mar, 2010
    Elizabeth
    My boyfriend n i we want to married soon,but im little bit worried because he has many debts from her previous marriage,When I married I will be the responsible for your debts?
    0 Votes

  • 35x35
    Mar, 2010
    Bill
    Because Texas is a community property state, you may be responsible for the debt. However, I hasten to say that I am not a Texas attorney, and you would be wise to consult with a Texas attorney on this issue. My guess -- note my word choice -- is that the answer to your question is very fact-specific. If he did not incur the debt to aid the community (i.e., you and his offspring if any) you may not be responsible for the debt, but that is a question a Texas attorney should answer. My advice? Get a divorce if you have no relationship with your spouse so that you have no exposure to his liabilities.
    0 Votes

  • 35x35
    Mar, 2010
    lisa
    In Texas, my husband and I have been separated for 3 years. He recently opened a checking account in him name only, overdrew the account and closed it while still owing money to the bank. A collection agency has reported this on my credit report. Am I responsible for this debt? Thank you.
    0 Votes

  • 35x35
    Feb, 2010
    Bill
    Here, wife is either in contempt of court or has breached the contract made in the divorce settlement. Wife may either be subject to penalty under contempt of court, the court may use its power to remove her from the title in an equity action, or wife can be held liable for the damages resulting from her breach of contract. Here, wife would be wise to consult with an attorney in her state with experience in contract or family law to discuss her rights and liabilities. Regarding your question, yes, wife has liability generally speaking. However, "community property" law varies among each of the 10 states that follow that doctrine, so all parties here would be wise to consult with attorneys in this state.
    0 Votes

  • 35x35
    Feb, 2010
    Curious
    Husband and Wife buy a home DURING marriage in a community property state. Husband is the only one on the mortgage loan, but both parties are on the title of the home. When divorcing the property and mortgage are awarded to the husband pending a judgment payment, but the wife's name still appears on the title of the home. Husband is asking wife to quitclaim her interest so he can refinance and avoid foreclosure. If she won't take her name off the title the mortgage company has told him he can't close the new loan he needs to avoid foreclosure. (If the loan doesn't go through then he will go into default). If the husband defaults on the mortgage can the lenders come after the wife for the debt since it was aquired during the marriage?
    0 Votes

  • 35x35
    Jan, 2010
    Bill
    Answering your question is difficult not because of the complications of melding two sets of children or reconciling the differences between Vikings and Packers fans, but by the different family laws of Minnesota and Wisconsin. Wisconsin is a community property state and Minnesota is not, which is significant. You and your spouse-to-be need to decide in which state you will marry, and in which state you will reside. Find an attorney in that state who is experienced in family law, and discuss all of your questions regarding your existing debt, debt you will incur together, and your separate and shared assets. I urge you to consider an ante-nuptial ("pre-nup") agreement regardless of the state you plan to reside in. The more stipulations and contingencies you write into your ante-nuptial agreement, the more at ease you will be before and during the marriage. I realize I did not answer your questions, but without knowing more about your plans it is impossible for me to do so.
    0 Votes

  • 35x35
    Jan, 2010
    Michelle
    I live in Wisconsin and my boyfriend lives in Minnesota, we are thinking about gettin married in a few years, but because of his bad health ins we may do this now. We will be living in seperate states even though we are married (we each have kids from different marriage) but will this hurt me when i go to help my kids wil financial aid for college? also, we each own our own home him in Mn me in WI, we are willing to sign a prenump but what if he loses job & goes in debt, will i be responsible for his debts even though live apart in differnent states and vise versa for him?
    0 Votes

  • 35x35
    Oct, 2009
    Bill
    I depends on whether she is filing Chapter 7 or 13 bankruptcy. I urge you to take this question to a California attorney experienced in bankruptcy, who will be able to review your rights in this situation. Keep in mind that your spouse may not qualify for bankruptcy, thanks to the changes in the bankruptcy code that occurred in 2005. Your spouse may have other options. See What Are My Debt Resolution Options? to learn more about debt consolidation, a debt consolidation loan, credit card counseling, and other options.
    0 Votes

  • 35x35
    Oct, 2009
    Ty
    My wife was in debt when she was single. We got a pre-nup sign before marriage in California. So I am safe there. My question is: I would like to purchase a house. It will be under my name only. My wife plan to file BK or default on her credit cards. Can her creditors go after my (our) new house which I just purchased? Please advise. Thank you so much.
    0 Votes

  • 35x35
    Oct, 2009
    Bill
    First, you do not need to file for bankruptcy just because your ex-spouse files. If the debt is discharged completely, then you may not have any liability. However, if the court decides to (for the sake of argument I am picking a percentage out of the air) discharge 80%, then you would be liable for paying the creditor 20%. Unfortunately, you may need to remain in contact with your ex-spouse a little longer to learn what will happen with the mortgage. I recommend you speak to an attorney in your state to learn more about your rights and liabilities in this situation. Regarding a possible claim against your ex-spouse for the amount the mortgage company can collect from you, yes, absolutely you have a case.
    0 Votes

  • 35x35
    Oct, 2009
    julieM
    I am recently divorced and and gave the house to my ex with all the expenses and debt that goes with it . Even though the divorce decree states I am not responsible or liable for any debt for the house or loan, the bank doesn't honor the decree. My ex informed me he is defaulting on the loan and filing bankrupcy. Because I'm legally still on the loan, will I have to file too? If the bank comes after me, could I go after him?
    0 Votes

  • 35x35
    Mar, 2009
    Bill
    No, the IRS will continue to collect it from your soon to be husband. But if you plan to file joint returns after you are married, any refunds maybe withheld because of this debt.
    0 Votes

    • 35x35
      May, 2011
      Tracey
      I was in this situation where our joint refund was held due to my husbands old debt. I filed an "Innocent Spouse Relief" form 8857 with the IRS. The return is then figured so that you still get your portion of the return.
      0 Votes

  • 35x35
    Mar, 2009
    Melissa
    If the man I want to marry has IRS debt, after the marriage will that debt become mine?
    0 Votes

  • 35x35
    Jan, 2009
    Bill
    If you are sure that you are only an authorised user and not a joint applicant, then you will not be liable for this debt. In order to get yourself removed, your ex-husband will have to write a letter requesting the same, to the credit card company.
    0 Votes

  • 35x35
    Jan, 2009
    Diane
    I live in Louisiana & after I filed for divorce my ex-husband opened a $20,000 credit card in his name with me as an authourized user. I had no knowledge he was doing this. I am just discovering this as I was trying to re-mortgage my home & it's appeared on my credit report. Am I liable? Presently, he has not been delinquent on the account, but I want it off my credit.
    0 Votes

  • 35x35
    Sep, 2008
    Bill
    I would be best if you consulted a lawyer at this point. There is too much information missing in your question to give you advice. Generally speaking, you should be safe as the judgment is only in her name. But, if you live in a community property state, they might try to collect from you as well. Again, please consult with a qualified attorney.
    0 Votes

  • 35x35
    Sep, 2008
    John
    Hello- my wife just got sued by a tow company, for not paying to get a car listed in her name out of impound. The judge ruled in their favor. Can the tow company levy money out of my personal accounts (not joint)? What about my LLC's account (sole member)? Thanks!
    0 Votes

  • 35x35
    Aug, 2008
    Bill
    In California, as a community property state, both spouses may be held liable for any debt created during the marriage to benefit the community, even after a divorce and regardless of whose name was on the account. Generally speaking, a divorce settlement does not affect the rights of a creditor to pursue whomever may be liable to collect a debt, so your wife's creditors may still be able to come after you for the collection of these debts if she does not make the payments. Of course, any debts incurred by your spouse after your separation, even on credit accounts opened while you were still married, should be her responsibility alone. Since I do not know all of the specifics of your situation, I cannot tell you whether or not you are liable for your wife's debts, and if you are what action the creditor could take against you to collect the debt. I presume that you have an attorney representing you in your divorce proceeding; I strongly encourage you to speak with your attorney about your potential liability for these debts, and what you can do about your wife not meeting her obligations under your divorce settlement. Hopefully you can work out a plan to of action which will prevent any possible collection activity against you for these debts.
    0 Votes

  • 35x35
    Aug, 2008
    Celeste
    Thank You for your time. We are living in CA which is a community property state. The credit cards are not joint accounts. In the divorce settlement - she assumes her credit cards debt and I did the same to my mine. However - a few months later she is not keeping up with the payment and in the process of file for chapter 7 - can the creditors come after me in that case? Thank in advance for your feedback.
    0 Votes

  • 35x35
    Aug, 2008
    Bill
    This really depends on whether you signed up for the credit cards in the beginning as joint applicants. If both of your credit was used, then yes, they will follow up with both of you, regardless of the divorce decree, but if she filed for bankruptcy, then they would have to stop their collection efforts anyways.
    0 Votes

  • 35x35
    Aug, 2008
    keith
    what happened in the case if the there is a divorce and wife assume all the credit cards under HER name - and she files for chapter 7 or 13 - can the ex-husband be sue ?
    0 Votes