In general, virtually all debts acquired while married by either spouse are deemed community-property debts, so a creditor can seek payment from either spouse for the entire amount of the debt.
People find themselves in this frustrating predicament all the time when they receive letters or phone calls from creditors after their ex-spouses fail to pay debts. The innocent and non-suspecting spouses’ credit becomes severely damaged, and they find themselves awash in an endless sea of paperwork. They try to settle the dispute but generally end up paying a large amount of money to the creditor with no hope of recovery from the deadbeat ex-spouses.
If you suspect your spouse is likely to cause you credit problems after you separate, you should be proactive and contact all of his or her creditors, to have the creditor acknowledge that they will look solely to your ex-spouse for payment.
There are a number of issues that affect your rights in this situation, such as your date of separation, the final allocation of assets and debts, reimbursement for amounts paid, what constitutes community property debt vs. separate property debt, and many more. If you are concerned about these issues, you should review the governing provisions found in California Family Code, Section 900 et seq. and contact a Certified Family Law Specialist to help guide you through the process.
Steven A. Mindel has been certified as a Family Law Specialist since 1998 and heads the business and transactional department of Los Angeles firm Feinberg, Mindel, Brandt and Kline. He serves as a Judge Pro Tem for the Los Angeles Superior Court, Family Law Division and is the Family Law expert for CouplesCompany.com.