When you get married do you assume responsibility for each other’s debts?

UPDATED: Jan 7, 2012

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When you get married do you assume responsibility for each other’s debts?

We’re in NC.

Asked on January 7, 2012 under Family Law, North Carolina


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

Answered 11 years ago | Contributor

The general rule of law is that one spouse is not legally responsible to pay for the other spouse's debts (past or present). However, as with most rules, there are exceptions. In this instance they would be:

  • if the other spouse agreed to be legally obligated for such a debt;
  • the couple resides in a community property state (NC is not);
  • or, if the couple resides in a state that recognizes (or has codified) the common law "doctrine of necessaries", whereby a spouse may be held liable for bills that are necessary for the maintenance of the household (NC is such a state).  

So, depending on the nature of the debt, a spouse may be held liable for the other spouse's debts. Additionally, even if they are not so liable, to the extent that they share joint non-exempt assets, those assets could be at risk for such debt. 


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 AttorneyPages.com 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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