What is an ex-spouse’s liability for debts incurred during the marriage?

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What is an ex-spouse’s liability for debts incurred during the marriage?

I was just served with a small claims court summons. It is regarding a bill my husband had for medical. Our divorce signed by a judge a few days prior to the claim filing states that husband responsible for all debt he incurred during the marriage and actually list the bill in question. I can’t be held responsible right?

Asked on May 11, 2011 under Bankruptcy Law, Oregon

Answers:

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

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

An ex-spouse is not typically responsible for the debts of the other ex-spouse, unless: they lived in a community property state (you didn't); the innocent spouse agreed to be held liable (I assume that you did not); or, in some states, if the bill was incurred for a necessity such as a medical bill (your case).

This is true regardless of what a divorce decree might state. The reason - a creditor is not a party to a divorce action.  Therefore the ex-spouse remains liable for the debt.  However, by virtue of a divorce decree, the ex-spouse that incurred the debt can be held responsible for reimbursing the innocent ex-spouse for any money that they may have to pay out.


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