CanI be held liable for my wife’s debt?

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CanI be held liable for my wife’s debt?

My wife took out several student loans to pay for our children’s education. They are in her name. I did not sign anything. I did not know she had taken out the loans; I had advised her not to do it.

Asked on August 28, 2010 under Bankruptcy Law, Massachusetts

Answers:

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

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

Generally, one spouse is not obligated to pay the bills of the other. However, there are several exceptions . If you live in a community property state, typically you would bear responsibility for such debt (MA is not such a state). The second exception would be if you agreed to be legally bound for re-payments on the debt (for example you  co-signed on a loan; which you did not). The last exception falls under something called the "doctrine of necessities" which a minority if states follow. Under the doctrine, one spouse is liable for the "necessary" household expenses incurred by the other spouse during marriage (for example for medical bills,etc not student loans).

However, to the extent that you have joint assets they will be at risk if your wife defaults on the student loan payments.

 


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