Ask Bill your personal finance question

Advice if Liable for Wife's Debt

My wife has about 10k in credit card debt, I have no idea how she got in so deep. Will I be responsible for it eventually?

My wife has about 10k in credit card debt. I know that 1 of the cards she filled out the application for a free t-shirt and listed $0 for income and Housewife for occupation.She recieved the card anyway with 5k credit limit. I wasn't aware she was using the card or the other 2 that she had until the amount reached about 10k.She does not work and I can't make minimum payments for her.Am I liable or if she filed for bakruptcy how would that affect me.Need suggestions.

Read full question
Bill's Answer
4.0
/5.0
(7 Votes)

Bills.com | Find Learn Save

Whether or not you may be liable for your wife's debt will depend largely on your state of residence. In most states, I would simply tell you "no, you are not liable for debts incurred by your wife in her name. " However, nine states use a system called "community property" to assign assets and liabilities of a married couple. These states are Arizona, California, Nevada, New Mexico, Texas, Washington, and Wisconsin. In addition, residents of Alaska can opt to use community property scheme for marital assets and debt. In community property states, any asset acquired during a marriage is considered to be owned by the marital community, not by the husband and wife as individuals; this is true even if the asset is only in the name of one spouse. For example, if and husband and wife purchased a home, but title for the property was given only to the husband, the wife would still have a claim to the property because it would be considered the property of the marital community even though it is only in her husband’s name. The same rules apply to debts incurred during the marriage as well, which would mean that you very well could be liable for your wife’s debts if you live in one of the nine states I listed. To learn more about community property law, I encourage you to visit this link.

Even in community property states, spouses can acquire individual assets and obligations though various means. For example, if one spouse inherits a piece of land, the property would likely be considered to be owned by that spouse alone, not by the marital community. Also, if a spouse incurs a debt which does not benefit the marital community, it may be ruled a personal obligation and not be the responsibility of both spouses. Generally speaking, the presumption is that assets and debts acquired during the marriage are community property, though these questions usually only arise during a divorce or if a creditor tried to sue both spouses for a debt incurred only by one.

Regardless of your states marital property scheme, your wife’s debts should not affect your credit rating, as you are not listed as a co-applicant on the accounts. If your wife filed for bankruptcy protection, it should also not affect your credit. However, a bankruptcy filing could cause you some problems if your wife’s name is listed as an owner on any of your joint assets which are ruled as non-exempt by the bankruptcy court. For example, if your home equity exceeds the amount of the exemption allowed by the bankruptcy court, your wife may have difficulty in filing for a full discharge Chapter 7 bankruptcy. Another issue which may arise is your household income; frequently, the bankruptcy court considers not the personal income of the debtor, but the household income of the debtor’s family. If your household income exceeds the limits set by federal bankruptcy regulations, it could impede your wife’s ability to file bankruptcy. Since your wife is considering filing for bankruptcy protection, I strongly encourage you to consult with an experienced attorney in your area who can review your situation in detail and help you decide the best solution to you and your wife's financial difficulties. To read more about bankruptcy, I invite you to visit the Bills.com bankruptcy page.

Your wife may also wish to explore other debt relief alternatives, such as consumer credit counseling or debt negotiation programs. If you would like to read more about the alternatives to bankruptcy, you can visit the Bills.com debt help page.

I wish you and your wife the best of luck in finding a solution to resolve these debts.

I hope that the information I have provided helps you Find. Learn. Save.

Best,

Bill

bills.com

Get Debt Help!
4.0
/5.0
(7 Votes)

People also like to Read

Bills.com Team

Get all the information you need about voluntary repossession, be it a vehicle or a home that you considering for voluntary r... Read more >>

BS

Get more information as to how wage garnishments work. If you are facing a creditor judgment, Bills.com can help you save.... Read more >>

Mark Cappel

You may or may not be responsible for your deceased spouse's debts depending on which state you reside in. In community prope... Read more >>

Mark Cappel

When a person dies, his or her debts do not disappear automatically. However, the family is not responsible for the debts. Le... Read more >>

Mark Cappel

How to handle collection calls on 12-year-old debt. Your state statute of limitations and federal law set the rules collectio... Read more >>

2 Comments

Recent Best
1500 characters remaining
  • 35x35
    May, 2009
    Brent
    If you have any joint accounts with your husband that you are going to enroll into the debt settlement program, then his credit will be negatively effected, but if you don't, then his credit should be safe.
    0 Votes

  • MC
    May, 2009
    Michele
    How does it affect husbands credit in Illinois if wife files for debt settlement on her credit card and personal loans?
    0 Votes

loading...