Do I Owe my Spouse’s Debt?

What happens when the marriage you entered into with such high hopes is headed for divorce court?

Money has become a big point of contention, even in intact marriages, but has also become the leading cause of divorce – bills are continually rising and it costs a lot of money to raise children.

Whether you and your spouse are liable for each other’s debts depends mostly on where you live. These rules also apply to same-sex marriages.

Since California is a community property state, the following guidelines apply:

  • Most debts incurred by either spouse during the marriage are owed by the couple – even if only one spouse signed the paperwork for the debt.
  • If you incurred a student loan while you were single, it won’t automatically become a joint debt once you are married.
  • After a legal separation or divorce, a debt is generally owed only by the spouse who incurred it – unless the debt was incurred for a family necessity.
  • All income earned during the marriage becomes community property – owned equally by husband and wife.
  • Separate property is any property acquired before the marriage, including gifts and inheritances.

In California, creditors of one spouse can go after the assets and income of the married couple to make good on joint debts. They can go after joint assets no matter whose name is on the title document.

Keep in mind, in California, couples can sign an agreement with each other to have their debts and income treated separately – a pre- or post-nuptial agreement can make sense in many situations.

If you have questions regarding spousal debts or any other family issue, contact the knowledgeable Orange County family law offices of Amy M. Montes. We look forward to hearing from you and assisting you with any and all family law needs.