What is a spouse’s liability for a joint account if the other spouse accessed it without their knowledge?

Get Legal Help Today

secured lock Secured with SHA-256 Encryption

What is a spouse’s liability for a joint account if the other spouse accessed it without their knowledge?

My friend has been separated from her husband for a couple of years now. She started getting calls about a year ago from a collection agency working with a local bank. A few years ago they opened a bank account together that had a line of credit available to it. Unknown to the wife the husband used the line of credit to purchase a car. He admits he made the purchase without her knowledge. Whats her liability on this debt when he says it’s his responsibility?

Asked on August 9, 2011 California

Answers:

L.P., Member, Pennsylvania and New Jersey Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

While your friend may have been separated from her husband for some time, the credit card company would have no way of knowing that.  Upon separation, your friend should have asked to have her name taken off of the joint credit cards, so that she would not be on the hook for “joint accounts.”  While they may have been separated, they maintained joint accounts.  Therefore, they could have still benefitted from a joint account, such as a lower interest rate, so the credit card company will hold them to the penalties and downfalls of a joint account.

 

However, there are some other options out there for your friend.  She could go to the family court to obtain a legal separation agreement.  This would at least outline what property would go to each during the separation, including how joint accounts would be handled.  While third parties, such as a credit card company are not bound by these agreements, she could at least have him held in contempt by the court if he were to violate the agreement. 

 

Additionally, she could file a claim in small claims court and prove that the charges were his alone and that they were separated at the time.  Until then, the creditors may continue to contact your friend to recover the past due amount on the joint account.

 


IMPORTANT NOTICE: The Answer(s) provided above are for general information only. The attorney providing the answer was not serving as the attorney for the person submitting the question or in any attorney-client relationship with such person. Laws may vary from state to state, and sometimes change. Tiny variations in the facts, or a fact not set forth in a question, often can change a legal outcome or an attorney's conclusion. Although AttorneyPages.com has verified the attorney was admitted to practice law in at least one jurisdiction, he or she may not be authorized to practice law in the jurisdiction referred to in the question, nor is he or she necessarily experienced in the area of the law involved. Unlike the information in the Answer(s) above, upon which you should NOT rely, for personal advice you can rely upon we suggest you retain an attorney to represent you.

Get Legal Help Today

Find the right lawyer for your legal issue.

secured lock Secured with SHA-256 Encryption