Any and all debts incurred during the course of a marriage must be repaid according to the terms and conditions of the credit account. The law is clear when it comes to the shared responsibility of debt including credit card debt owed by one spouse. Depending on the age of the debt and your state of residence, you may be responsible for your wife's debt.
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Community Property States
Alaska, Arizona, California, Idaho, Louisiana, Nevada, New Mexico, Texas, Washington state and Wisconsin are community property states, which means the law guarantees each spouse half of the interest in all marital property and debt. In other words, any property or debt--including credit card debt--that is acquired by the marital couple during the course of a marriage is jointly owned. Property and debt acquired prior to a marriage is excluded.
Joint Credit Card Debt
If a wife fills out a credit card application and adds her husband's name as a joint account holder, both spouses are jointly responsible for the repayment of the debt. If the husband's name is added after the credit card account is opened, both spouses are jointly responsible for the debt including any debt accrued before the husband's name was added to the account.
A husband is not responsible for his wife's credit card debt if that debt was amassed before the start of the marriage. For example, if a wife accumulates £13,000 in debt and then marries her husband 10 years later having repaid very little of that debt beforehand, her husband is not responsible for the repayment of that debt.
If a wife fills out a credit card application without naming her husband as a joint card holder, but uses the credit card to pay for household expenses, her husband may be responsible for half of the debt owed on the account. If the debt contributed to the betterment of the household--for example, paying household bills, buying furnishings for the marital home and purchasing daily necessities for the household--a family court judge may divide the debt evenly between both spouses.
Collectors may use deceptive practices to collect debt from a debtor including threatening to sue her spouse or garnish her wages. If you are not responsible for your wife's credit card debt, a collector cannot sue you for the debt owed. Contact a credit counsellor if you need additional assistance in dealing with collectors.
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