Can my wife be sued for unpaid medical bill acquired prior to our marriage?

UPDATED: Apr 22, 2011

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Can my wife be sued for unpaid medical bill acquired prior to our marriage?

I received a small claim summons which list both myself and my wife as defendents. The unpaid bills that they are trying to obtain a judgement for are from before we were married. Can they include her in the suit? If this is an error or improper procedure, does this invalidate their suit or at least give me some room to negotiate favorable payment terms?

Asked on April 22, 2011 under Bankruptcy Law, Wisconsin


M.D., Member, California and New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 11 years ago | Contributor

In most states the answer would be no, your wife could not be sued for a pre-marital debt.  However, WI is a community property state.  And, as a general rule, one spouse assumes liability for the other spouse's pre-marital debts.  As a practical matter, many creditors do not go to the trouble of suing both spouses as doing so tends to complicate the legal process involved in obtaining a judgment. Unfortunately however, that is not the case here.

Since community property laws are unique to each state regarding spousal liability, you should consult directly with an attorney in your state who can review the details of your situation and advise you accordingly. 

IMPORTANT NOTICE: The Answer(s) provided above are for general information only. The attorney providing the answer was not serving as the attorney for the person submitting the question or in any attorney-client relationship with such person. Laws may vary from state to state, and sometimes change. Tiny variations in the facts, or a fact not set forth in a question, often can change a legal outcome or an attorney's conclusion. Although has verified the attorney was admitted to practice law in at least one jurisdiction, he or she may not be authorized to practice law in the jurisdiction referred to in the question, nor is he or she necessarily experienced in the area of the law involved. Unlike the information in the Answer(s) above, upon which you should NOT rely, for personal advice you can rely upon we suggest you retain an attorney to represent you.

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