Is my spouse responsible formy medicalbill even though she had nothing to do with it?

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Is my spouse responsible formy medicalbill even though she had nothing to do with it?

I owe a medical bill that was turned over for collection. The collection agency is threatening to sue because they want me to pay more per month. I am currently paying $25. They also threatened to collect this debt from my spouse and said that they were going to run a credit check on her without her consent. Is that legal? Can they hold her responsible for my debt? This was an $8000 debt of which I have paid $5500on so far. The medical bill was that high because the doctor’s network coding was misrepresented at the time of my service and consequently he was not in my insurance network.

Asked on March 15, 2011 under Bankruptcy Law, Ohio

Answers:

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

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

Generally, a spouse is not obligated to pay the bills of the other spouse. There are however several exceptions to this rule.  The first exception as to do with just where you live. If you live in a community property state, you would typically bear responsibility for such a debt (however OH is not such a state).  The second exception would be if you signed or in some way obligated yourself to be legally bound for re-payments on the debt (you don't indicate that to be the case). The last exception falls under something called the "doctrine of necessities".  This doctrine was established at common law.  The doctrine of necessities provides that, one spouse is liable for the "necessary" expenses incurred by the other spouse during marriage - and medical bills are such an expense (however, my research suggests that OH does not follow this doctrine).  Consequently your wife in not responsible for repayment of this bill. 

If your creditors persist in threatening her, you can tell them that you are going to report their collection efforts to your the attorney general's office and/or department of consumer protection (or whatever applicable agency handles such matters in OH).  Making such threats violates both federal (and possibly state) law.


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