Are You Liable for the Debts of Your Spouse or Future Spouse?
One of the most frequent questions consumer lawyers get is the extent of liability that a spouse has for the debts that are incurred by the other. Sometimes spouses are worried about being responsible for debts incurred by the other spouse during the marriage, and other times people may ask whether they will become liable for these debts if they marry someone who is already in debt.
The short answer is that in Florida, you are only responsible for those debts you sign to or agree to pay back; getting married does not automatically turn your future spouse’s debt into yours. Even once you are married, you are not automatically liable for debts incurred by your spouse in his or her name only.
General rules apply depending on the type of debt:
Credit Cards/Retail Debt
You are not liable to pay back debts incurred by your spouse on his or her retail or credit account, and you can’t be sued on them. Only if you opened the account as a cosigner, guarantor or account holder can you be held liable. Note that this is not the same as being an “authorized user,” which does not obligate you to pay the debts.
Like credit cards, you aren’t responsible for the medical debts of your spouse. However, if you were a cosigner for any treatment that was rendered to your spouse, you could be liable for the debt, personally. Many medical facilities do in fact make you sign a paper obligating yourself to your spouse’s medical debts if your spouse is admitted incapacitated and can’t sign for him or herself.
Student Loan Debt
Again, if you were a cosigner or guarantor, you may still be liable for the debt. Otherwise, you cannot be held responsible for student loan debt incurred by your spouse, whether before or after marriage.
You are only liable for the debt if you were a cosigner for the debt. Be careful, as many dealerships will say they are “using your credit” to get your spouse’s loan, which may mean the loan is being taken out in your name as well as your spouse’s.
Being on the title, by itself, does not obligate you to pay the debt. However, the creditor can still repossess the car if it is in your spouse’s name and payments aren’t made.
Remember if your spouse takes out credit from Best Buy and buys all your kitchen appliances and then doesn’t pay, you aren’t liable for the money, but if a creditor comes to take the appliances, you still could lose them (there are some exceptions and protections for married couples, called Tenancy by the Entireties, but that’s another issue for another day).
Additionally, if your spouse dies, creditors can still make claims on his or her estate. The result is that you may end up paying the debts indirectly by having money taken out of any money or property that you stood to inherit.
We Can Help You Today
Contact Jacobs Legal in Miami today to discuss problems you’re having with debt collectors coming after debts that aren’t yours or which you don’t recognize. We are eager to assist you today.