You’re not responsible for your partner’s debts just because you live together. However, you are responsible for debts that you have agreed to pay. If you and your partner have a debt in both of your names, like a joint credit card, then the issuing company can hold both of you responsible for paying for it. A cohabitation agreement can create terms for what happens to credit card debt and other debt at the end of the relationship.
Think of the picture before agreeing to any terms. If the debt on the credit card is truly 50/50, you may be tempted to agree to simply each pay half of the credit card bill each month until the debt is paid off. But what if your ex stops paying their half at some point? This will affect your credit and lead to late fees, interest, or penalties while you may find yourself paying the entire bill to keep the creditors off your back.
One way to avoid this kind of worst-case scenario is to have an agreement that stipulates all joint credit cards must be closed out and paid off according to a certain division, whether it be 50/50, 70/30, or even one of you absorb the 100% in accommodation for some other term if the relationship ends.
The agreement could stipulate that proceeds from the house will pay off all of the joint credit card debt before it’s even divided.
Bari Zell Weinberger is the owner and managing partner of Weinberger Law Group in New Jersey. She is Certified by the Supreme Court of New Jersey as a Matrimonial Law Attorney.