If I marry a woman who previously did a strategic default on her home by just walking away, can I be held liable for her past debt?

UPDATED: Nov 14, 2011

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If I marry a woman who previously did a strategic default on her home by just walking away, can I be held liable for her past debt?

She has a primary mortgage and a home equity loan on her home. Combined, the debt is probably double the market value. Since she is so far under water she can’t refinance her 7% loans since they are not backed by Fannie or Freddie.

Asked on November 14, 2011 under Bankruptcy Law, Illinois


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

Answered 11 years ago | Contributor

A husband cannot be held liable for debts that his wife's wife incurred prior to marriage. The fact is that in IL (as in other non-community property states) there is no spousal liability for pre-marital debt. The only way that you would be liable for this debt is if you specifically agreed to be (e.g. as a co-signer on a loan, etc.). Merely being married is not enough to have you become legally reponsible for repayment. However, once you are married if your wife's creditors sue and are awarded judgements, then in addition to her assets, any joint assets to the extent that they are non-exempt will be at risk. So keep your bank accounts and such separate.

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