AmI responsible for my ex-wife’s medical bills when we were separated at the time the debt was made?

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AmI responsible for my ex-wife’s medical bills when we were separated at the time the debt was made?

My ex-wife has medical debt that I now have a lawsuit against me for her debt. In 2008, when we were separated but not divorced, she went to the hospital without insurance. She has not paid her debt and has avoided phone calls and would not answer the door when the law office tried to serve her. They did some more digging and noticed that we were still married, they say that even though we were separated I am responsible for her debt. What can i do to not be held accountable for her bad decisions?

Asked on August 25, 2010 under Bankruptcy Law, Washington

Answers:

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

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

Generally, whether separated or not, one spouse is not obligated to pay the medical bills of the other spouse. However, there are several exceptions to this rule. The one applicable to you has to do with where you live. WA is a community property state, typically if you live in a community property state, you would bear responsibility for such a debt. The general rule in such a case is that, a medical bill or other debt that is incurred during the marriage (versus debt that is incurred prior to the marriage) is considered to be a joint debt. This holds true even if the debt is listed exclusively in one spouse's name. This liability only ceased once you were divorced.  However, if you were legally separated maybe your separation agreement addressed this issue.  Possibly you can get reimbursed for your ex.

You may want to consult with an attorney in your area. They can best advise you of all or rights and responsibilities as they exist under state law.


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