Are You Responsible for Your Spouse’s Credit Card Debt?


Credit card debt tends to sneak up on you, and it can become a problem for many people. There are those that make irresponsible purchases, but overwhelming credit card debt can accumulate for other reasons. For example, if your child needs a tonsillectomy, and you don’t have health insurance or a significant amount of money in the bank, what are you going to do? Medical bills are one underlying cause of unmanageable credit card debt, but there are others. A loss of income can necessitate excessive credit card usage, and people sometimes run up credit card debts because they are trying to assist family members or friends.

The matter of credit card debt responsibility is pretty cut and dried if you are single and there are no co-signers on your account or accounts. However, what about people who are married? If your spouse cannot pay his or her credit card debt, are you liable? The answer depends on a number of different factors, including the state that you live in. Most states are common law states, and in these places, you would typically not be responsible for your spouse’s personal credit card debt as long as you are not a co-signer. However, creditors could seek to attach your spouse’s share of jointly owned property.

We practice in Oregon and Washington. Oregon is a common-law state, but Washington is one of a handful of community property states. In a community property state, generally speaking, you could be held responsible for credit card debts that your spouse incurred while you were married. Debts that were owed before the marriage would not fall into the community debt category. If a personal credit card was used to benefit both parties, it would typically be looked upon as community debt. On the other hand, if the purchase only benefited the cardholder, his or her spouse may not be liable for the debt.

If you would like to explore avenues that can lead to credit card debt relief, our firm would be more than glad to assist you. We offer free case evaluations to people in Grants Pass, Medford, Coos Bay, and a few other cities in Oregon and Washington, and you can set up an appointment right now if you give us a call at 1-800-682-9568.