If my wife has incurred $220,000 in medical bills and we are still legally married, can they sue and take my house?

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If my wife has incurred $220,000 in medical bills and we are still legally married, can they sue and take my house?

She was in KS; I live in NM.

Asked on December 5, 2011 under Bankruptcy Law, New Mexico

Answers:

L.P., Member, Pennsylvania and New Jersey Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

Thank you for submitting your question regarding medical debt of your spouse and inquiring who is responsible for the debt.  This is a common question and issue for couples going through a divorce.  This normally occurs when one spouse received treatment or some type of medical care during the marriage, and then the ex-spouse gets sued for their former spouse’s medical debt.  However, the likely answer is that you would be responsible for the debt.  In most states, debt of one spouse is the same as debt of the other spouse.  For legal purposes, in mostly all situations, you and your spouse are considered one legal entity.  Additionally, if you had children, their medical debt would also be your medical debt. 

The debt collection companies will attempt to get the debt paid, and they do not care which spouse received the medical care and which one did not.  They do not care if you did not know of the medical treatment, or even if you disagreed with your former spouse receiving a particular type of medical treatment.  The debt collectors will attempt to get the debt paid by both spouses, and it is likely they will push harder on the spouse that has the better job, because they are more likely to get paid.

It is not a yes or no question as to whether your home could be affected.  After attempts at collection, the collection company could turn the file over to a law firm who may choose to file suit.  Depending on the laws of the state where a judgment is entered, the law firm may be able to put the judgment against your home.

 


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