Home » FAQs » Am I responsible for my ex-husband’s or ex-wife’s debts?

Am I responsible for my ex-husband’s or ex-wife’s debts?

Ex-spouse Debts :
Whether you are responsible for your ex-husband’s or ex-wife’s debts depends on the circumstances surrounding the issue, your state law and perhaps most importantly, who signed the credit contract. For instance, if your name is still on the credit contract then, even though you are divorced, you are still responsible for the debt regardless of what the divorce decree states. It’s important to understand that a divorce decree only spells out who is supposed to pay the debt.  It does NOT legally change who is responsible for the debt.

When couples divorce, they usually agree on who pays what. For example, a car loan is in both names and the divorce agreement states that the ex-wife keeps the car and is responsible for making the payments. Several months later, when the ex-wife defaults on the car loan, collectors start calling her and her ex-husband. The ex-husband claims that the debt is not his because his ex-wife got the car and the payment in the divorce. The collector says it is the ex-husband’s responsibility and will pursue legal action if he does not pay up. This collector is correct and will probably win in court!

After divorcing, couples would be wise to have joint credit contracts revised so that only the name of the person responsible for the debt is on the contract. Be advised that creditors are reluctant to do this, especially after a divorce, because experience tells them the chances of the loan becoming overdue is high and so having two people responsible for the debt is better because if one ex-spouse defaults, the lender can still pursue the other ex-spouse.

Another question I’m asked quite often is, Why wasn’t I notified when the debt went delinquent?” The answer is because the creditor probably only has one address; typically the address before the divorce. If you moved out, then it’s a good bet you are not getting the payment and statement notices either. Another scenario might be where the person responsible for paying the debt moved out of the primary address on the credit contract AND changed the mailing address with the creditor thus the payment statement is no longer going to the primary address. Whatever the case, creditors are not responsible for finding people to send payment notices too. Sending a notice to the last known address is about all they’ll do and even that can be a courtesy depending on the credit disclosure agreement.

Your best protection is to make sure your creditors know both ex-spouse’s addresses on joint credit accounts. Also, make sure the lender knows you both want to be notified before an account becomes delinquent. Doing this may prevent the account from being sent to collections and being reported as a negative on your credit reports.

What happens when an ex-spouse goes bankrupt?

Just as in the previous paragraph, if there were no joint debts, you have nothing to worry about and your credit will not be affected. However, if there were any joint debts with your name still on the contract, then you can be held responsible for the entire debt. However, the bankruptcy laws are very complicated. Consult a bankruptcy attorney to be sure of your status!

Can collectors call my current spouse and discuss my debts?

I answer email from spouses who want to know if a collector violated the FDCPA by discussing unpaid debts with the other spouse. No violation occurred because the FDCPA specifically allows this.

Debt collectors can legally discuss details of your debts with your spouse. The same rule applies to minors (less than 18 years old), to a guardian, executor, and parents.

Let’s say you just got married and suddenly a debt collector calls about an unpaid debt from three years ago that you had forgotten about. You’re not home so the collection agent proceeds to discuss the details of your debt with your spouse – this does not violate the FDCPA.

Typical Scenario

You are a married male who owes several thousand dollars on a credit card that is in your name only and the payment is way overdue. One day a collector calls your home phone, identifies himself, asks if you’re home and, when learning that you are not home, asks the adult female who answered the phone if she is your spouse. Unless she identifies herself as someone other than your spouse,, the collector can discuss your debt with her.

If the female identifies herself as someone other than your spouse (something she should do immediately) the collector must cease all communication about your debt. Discussing your personal information concerning the debt violates the FDCPA and opens the collector up to a lawsuit.

Free Attorney Review


  1. Regarding the section, “Can collectors call my current spouse and discuss my debts” the answer is much more complicated and nuanced than the answer on this page would imply. The FDCPA is one relevant law to analyze here. Under § 805 (a) of the FDCPA, “Without the prior consent of the consumer given directly to the debt collector or the express permission of a court of competent jurisdiction, a debt collector may not communicate with a consumer in connection with the collection of any debt…”Under § 805 (d), “the term “consumer’ includes the consumer’s spouse, parent (if the consumer is a minor), guardian, executor, or administrator.”This means a collection agent can always discuss a delinquent debt with a spouse, right? Wrong! The law is more complicated than that.FDCPA § 803 (3) defines a consumer as the party responsible for the debt, and “any natural person obligated or allegedly obligated to pay any debt.” For the purposes of the FDCPA, a consumer’s spouse may constitute a “consumer” if the spouse is legally obligated to pay the debt. Spousal liability varies according to state law, and on the type of debt.

  2. My fiancé and ex wife have an account in collections, since no payment had been made for 4 years, he was going to ride it out until it came off his report. His ex made a small payment on it a few months ago, renewing the activity date. We don’t know why, but are we stuck with credit issues she is creating post-divorce?

    • Send us the collection letters, we can have an attorney review to determine if their is a claim against the collector. Our review of this situation is at no cost and without obligation call us today, 888-595-9111

  3. My husband and I live in a community property state and are contemplating divorce. He recently received a new credit card in the mail, in addition to the others he has spent to their limit. Shouldn’t I have been notified when he applied for this? He also attempted to refinance our mortgage and exclude my name, without my knowledge. Do I have any rights to limit his credit access? He’s also looking to buy a brand new car.

    • Likely not, unfortunately. But, stay in touch with us as debts develop and we will see what we can do to help. Also, document everything, right down to a letter to him saying not to buy a new car.

  4. I have been divorced for 3 years now and a creditor has garnished my bank account from a joint debt in both my ex husband and my name. Is there a way I can make sure my ex husband is responsible for the debt just as much as I am today? I haven’t had possession of the property since the divorce and nothing was outlined in the divorce decree on who would assume payment. I was a stay at home wife at the time of our marriage and stupidly allowed him to place my name on certain purchases.

  5. 7 years ago my wife and i decided to extend our house as the family was getting bigger. We got a joint loan to cover the cost of the build and £32 grand of her debts(paperwork i still have). 3 years ago the marriage broke down and she left. I am now a single parent with 3 children and struggling. She promised to pay towards the loan and for the past 2 years she has paid me nothing. What can i do?

  6. My ex-husband and I separated in 2004, divorced in 2007. He remarried, stayed in the same house, and apparently kept the gas bill in my name. That bill went to collections in 2012 and I am just now learning of it. I contacted the collection agency as well as the gas company. Both stated that it is my bill now b/c it’s in my name, even though I didn’t live there from 2004 on… is there any recourse for this?

  7. I’m separated from husband for 2yrs but not divorced. If he dies am I responsible for his outstanding debt.Also as he has not updated his will am I entitled to his work pension or will it pass to his children

  8. I just found out today that my ex husband filed bankruptcy on a joint checking account we had together about four years ago. I have tried to get on my current husbands car insurance, through the same company, for a while now and they have told me before I am blocked from having an account. But until today they have never been able to give me a reason. When I called today this was when they informed me of his bankruptcy. I have already paid off one of his debts on a rent-to-own washer and dryer that he kept and didn’t pay on. We both got subpoenaed to come to court but because I was the only one to show up, he never showed up and they didn’t even punish him for that, they stuck me with the bill. In our divorce paperwork it specifically stated he was responsible for all of those accounts, which he never paid on even once after the divorce. Will I now be responsible for this checking account even though I have called the bank about it in the past and they have never tried to contact me about it before?

  9. My ex husband and I divorced last year and in the divorce decree It states that he is responsible for his medical bills, I am responsible for mine, and we split the children’s 50/50. His paychecks have recently started being garnished and I called the collections department before they garnished mine. I wanted to set it up to where I only had to pay on my accounts and the kids accounts because half of it is his personally and they stated that I am still responsible for his even though the divorce decree says otherwise. Any way I can get out of paying $8000 in medical bills that are his?

  10. I have been garnished many times for my ex wife’s medical bills. The bills are in her name ONLY. I’ve told the collection agency that those are not my bills. They tell me since I was married to her, I am legally responsible too. So I have been garnished for over $6K for bills that were not mine. Is this right??

  11. Hi there

    I was divorced 6 years ago. Divorce decree states that he is liable for half of all debt. He defaulted since then. I managed with help from my new husband to make payments. However i am still paying everything & now it”s just getting to much.
    What can i do to get him to pay.

  12. I have been divorced from my ex wife for a yr and half and i just got letter from the collections that im being garnished and that the decree states that she is solely responsible for that bill and just told me that she was going bankrupt so is there any way i can get out of the 9k repo that she is solely responsible for

  13. My ex-wife is in default for her Federal student loans of about 60k. I received a letter that paychecks will be garnished for her debt. We were married during the time she went to school but I didn’t sign or agree to repay the loan. Can they still come at me like this? Do I have to take this hit which will impact my way of life even though we are divorced? Do I have any options at all?

  14. My husband and I live in a community property state., we matried for 10 years. We just bought a house and loan in his name this yeat. I just found out that he consign to refinance his dad’s house without my knowledge 9 years ago. His dad responsible for the mortgage payments he always has late payments and make double debts on this mortgage. So it effects my husband credit score until now. Luckily, we approved the mortgage for our first house.
    Do we have any rights to refuse this debts?
    Can the collector/creditor go after me for his dad’s mortgage debt, if we divorced?

Leave a Reply

Free Attorney Review

Confidential InformationNotice: There may be instances where discussing your situation over a public forum could potentially compromise your interests. On these occasions we will contact you directly via email in order to answer your inquiry in a confidential manner. If you would like to speak confidentially, please start your free attorney review instead of leaving a reply.

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *