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Am I Responsible for My Ex-Spouse’s Debt?

Is a debt collector harassing you to pay your former spouse's debt? You may not be legally responsible for this debt; it depends on your state's laws and the type of debt and you may have a claim under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) which can force the collector to stop collection efforts or even pay you money.

Debt in Your Spouse's Name Only

Most dissolution decrees or settlement agreements dictate who is responsible for what debt. Generally, each spouse is responsible for the debt in only their name. However, debt collectors do not usually care who was made responsible for the debt by a divorce court, and may attempt to collect your former spouse's debt from you. But do you have to pay it? It depends on the type of debt, if the debt was incurred before or during the marriage, and whether you live in a community property state, like California. Debt acquired before the marriage is not your responsibility. If a debt collector is harassing you about your ex-spouse's debt, you should contact a FDCPA lawyer to help you determine if you are responsible for the debt and if the debt collector has violated the FDCPA while attempting to the collect the debt from you. 

Joint Debt

Even if your ex-spouse was ordered by the divorce court to pay a joint debt, a debt collector or creditor may still attempt to collect the debt from you. This is because a divorce decree only determines who is supposed to pay the debt, it does not change the rights of the original creditor to collect the debt from either of the joint debtors. Generally, if a debt collector or creditor is attempting to collect a joint debt from you that your former spouse was ordered to pay, your recourse is in the divorce court and collection attempts may continue against you. Just as with any other debt, a debt collector or creditor may violate the FDCPA during collection attempts, and you should consult a FDCPA attorney before paying or agreeing to pay anything on the debt.

Debt in Your Name that Your Spouse was Ordered to Pay

In some cases, your spouse may be ordered to pay a debt that is in your name only. Just as with joint debt, a creditor or debt collector is not bound by a divorce court's determination of who should pay a debt, though, and the creditor will continue to attempt to collect the debt from you.

If a debt collector or creditor is attempting to collect a debt of your former spouse from you, please contact our office at 1-800-219-3577, for a free, no obligation consultation.  

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