Your Spouse’s Debts – Will Marriage Make You Responsible?

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your spouse's debts

You should be plenty worried about your spouse’s debts before you get married.

Your spouse’s debts can be enforced against all marital property under California law. This includes even those debts made that were made prior to marriage. Before you get married and say, “I Do,” you better look at your fiancee’s credit reports. Marital property is a term that covers most kinds of income and assets acquired by either spouse during a marriage.

When you marry someone, you also marry your spouse’s debts. Here’s why that is. There is a provision in California law allowing your spouse’s debts from before marriage to be enforced against YOU. It is known as California Code, Family Code – FAM § 910.

In California, you will marry your spouse’s debts.

California Code, Family Code – FAM § 910

(a) Except as otherwise expressly provided by statute, the community estate is liable for a debt incurred by either spouse before or during marriage, regardless of which spouse has the management and control of the property and regardless of whether one or both spouses are parties to the debt or to a judgment for the debt.

(b) “During marriage” for purposes of this section does not include the period after the date of separation, as defined in Section 70, and before a judgment of dissolution of marriage or legal separation of the parties.

How to Avoid Liability for Your Spouse’s Debts

Why not consider bankruptcy for your fiancee? A bankruptcy case filed by your fiancee prior to marriage will not affect you, (unless you have already established joint credit or jointly own assets together). If your fiancee is heavily in debt, those debts can be an awful burden on your marriage. You can look into this by consulting with a Bankruptcy Law Specialist for guidance and advice.

Another method is to consider a prenuptial agreement. You know, like most movie stars do before they get married. You can explore this option by consulting with a Family Law Specialist.

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Leon Bayer and Jeffrey Wishman are Los Angeles Bankruptcy attorneys. They have been practicing bankruptcy lawyers in Los Angeles for 37 years and are Certified Bankruptcy Specialists by the State Bar of California. These are lawyers who bring experience, skill and creativity to the highly complex area of bankruptcy law. At this Los Angeles law firm, the your initial consultation with an expert is free. Mr. Bayer is a coauthor of Nolo's The New Bankruptcy: Will It Work for You?, authors the “Ask Leon” series on Nolo’s Bankruptcy, Debt & Foreclosure blog, and writes on bankruptcy topics for Nolo’s website. In addition, Mr. Bayer devotes a significant number of hours to volunteer legal services. The State Bar of California has commended Mr. Bayer for this work every year since 2004.