If your ex-spouse fails to pay for debts he/she acquired while you were married, can his/her creditors comeafter you for payment?

In general, virtually all debts acquired while married by either spouse are deemed community-property debts, so a creditor can seek payment from either spouse for the entire amount of the debt.People find themselves in this frustrating predicament all the time when they receive letters or phone calls from creditors after their ex-spouses fail to pay debts. The innocent and non-suspecting spouses’ credit becomes severely damaged, and they find themselves awash in an endless sea of paperwork. They try to settle the dispute but generally end up paying a large amount of money to the creditor with no hope of recovery from the deadbeat ex-spouses.

If you suspect your spouse is likely to cause you credit problems after you separate, you should be proactive and contact all of his or her creditors, to have the creditor acknowledge that they will look solely to your ex-spouse for payment.

There are a number of issues that affect your rights in this situation, such as your date of separation, the final allocation of assets and debts, reimbursement for amounts paid, what constitutes community property debt vs. separate property debt, and many more. If you are concerned about these issues, you should review the governing provisions found in California Family Code ¤900 et seq. and contact a Certified Family Law Specialist to help guide you through the process.


By Steven Mindel

This FAQ was first published in Divorce Magazine and is reprinted with their permission.