When you get married do you assume responsibility for each other’s debts?

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When you get married do you assume responsibility for each other’s debts?

We’re in NC.

Asked on January 7, 2012 under Family Law, North Carolina

Answers:

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

Answered 9 years ago | Contributor

The general rule of law is that one spouse is not legally responsible to pay for the other spouse's debts (past or present). However, as with most rules, there are exceptions. In this instance they would be:

  • if the other spouse agreed to be legally obligated for such a debt;
  • the couple resides in a community property state (NC is not);
  • or, if the couple resides in a state that recognizes (or has codified) the common law "doctrine of necessaries", whereby a spouse may be held liable for bills that are necessary for the maintenance of the household (NC is such a state).  

So, depending on the nature of the debt, a spouse may be held liable for the other spouse's debts. Additionally, even if they are not so liable, to the extent that they share joint non-exempt assets, those assets could be at risk for such debt. 

 


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