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Am I obligated to pay my spouse’s debt after separation?

On Behalf of | Apr 21, 2023 | Property Division |

Property division is often the most complicated aspect of a California divorce. In fact, money problems or one spouse’s financial irresponsibility are sometimes the reasons marriages end.

After you and your spouse separate, you may worry that you will continue to be responsible for any new debts your spouse incurs. This is a legitimate concern, especially if your spouse regularly racks up debt.

The good news is that according to California law, spouses are generally not responsible for any debts incurred by the other spouse after the date of separation. However, there is an important exception to this rule.

The “necessaries of life” exception

The law states that debts that are incurred for the common necessaries of life of your spouse or any children you and your spouse share could be considered marital debts if they are incurred between the date of your separation and the date your judgment of dissolution is entered.

You may naturally be wondering what exactly “necessaries of life” are. They are any items that are necessary to sustain life and can include things like food, housing, clothing and medical treatment. Anything that does not fall into one of these categories is not likely to be considered a necessity of life.

An example of necessaries of life

For example, if your spouse moves out after you separate but cannot afford rent, and a friend loans them money to pay rent, a court could order that you pay the rent, since housing is a necessity of life.

Your responsibility to pay the rent would only last until your judgment of dissolution is entered and you are legally divorced. After this, any debt you and your spouse continue to incur is your own responsibility, so if your spouse went back to borrowing from their friend, you would not have to pay that debt.

This is just one aspect of property division that can become complex. It is best to seek help from an attorney experienced with divorce and property division. They can examine your situation and advise you on the financial impact of your separation and divorce.


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