What is wife's responsibility for husband's debt after separation/divorce in WA?

Asked about 3 years ago - Seattle, WA

I have been married about 3 years. My husband had several credit cards prior to our marriage, with various balances. He purchased our home before we got married (in his name only) but refinanced after marriage. I am still not on the loan, but on title. We have no joint debt/credit accounts at all, but do have joint checking/savings. All credit cards are in his name, I am not an authorized user & have no access to these accounts. There have been charges to his credit cards since our marriage that would be categorized as "benefitting the marital community", i.e., tax bill, vacation, etc. The balance on credit cards is $45,000. Both car loans are in his name. We have no equity in our home; in fact, are upside down $60,000. If we separate/divorce what is my financial liability?

Attorney answers (3)

  1. Elizabeth Rankin Powell

    Contributor Level 20

    Answered . WA is a community property state. At the conclusion of a short term marriage, the job of the dissolution judge is to place the parties back in the condition they were in before the marriage if possible, but mostly to effect a just and equitable distribution of the assets and liabilities of the marriage, If you have children, that will affect the outcome; if you are a high-earning spouse and your spouse has stayed at home, that will also affect the outcome.

    The problem for you is that your creditors are not parties to your dissolution. If a debt was incurred while you were married, regardless of what the decree says, the creditor will come after whichever of you the creditor percieves is more likely to pay their bills.

    WA specifically says that the title on the asset is irrelevant, as is the name on the credit card account. I'd strongly suggest you hire counsel to protect your interests and be sure your decree includes a hold harmless. That is a clause that says if you wind up paying a bill he was ordered to pay, you can collect from him the principal and also the attorney fees incurred collecting. That'll help.

    Hope this helps. Elizabeth Powell

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  2. Robert Daniel Kelly

    Pro

    Contributor Level 20

    Answered . Courts are supposed to make a "just and equitable" division of property upon the dissolution of a marriage. The factors the courts are supposed to consider include those found in RCW 26.09.080. (http://apps.leg.wa.gov/RCW/default.aspx?cite=26...).

    [In accordance with the Avvo community guidelines, this communication does not constitute "legal advice", nor does... more
  3. Michael J Corbin

    Contributor Level 20

    Answered . This is no exact answer anyone can give. The debts would have to be examined individually and arguments made as to whether they are marital in nature or not. You will be on the hook for some portion of these debts, which would be counted against any property settlement you are to receive (which will be small give the short duration of the marriage and the non-marital nature of some of the assets).

    This answer is not to be considered a response to a specific legal issue in a specific jurisdiction - it is to be... more

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