Is a husband liable for his wife’s debts prior to marriage?

My ex-husband defaulted on his car and is now 7 months behind on the house; I co-signed on both. He says he is going to claim bankruptcy; it is my plan to claim bankruptcy as well. My boyfriend has an electrical business and is worried that if we get married that his business would become marital property and people could come after it because of my past. My name is not on the business in any way.

Asked on September 22, 2011 under Family Law, New York


M.D., Member, California and New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 9 years ago | Contributor

First of all, once you file bankruptcy and are discharged, you will have no debts and therefore no creditors that can go after any of your or your husband's assets.

Even if you never file for bankruptcy, while you will still have debts, he will not. One spouse is not liable for any of the other spouse's pre-marital financial obligations. That is unless they specifically agree to be held responsible or they live in a community property state; neither of which apply to your situation.

However if you don't file, your assets will include not only those that are just in your name; they will also include any joint assets that you and your husband hold. So keep all of his assets separate from yours; that means not just the business but bank accounts, real estate, etc.

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