Money Talks, So Should You

Ask Jane: Is my spouse responsible for debts I incur?

Jane Bryant Quinn
by Jane Bryant Quinn, Dimespring Contributor  (@janebryantquinn)

I hope this question doesn’t mean that you’re about to go on a spending spree, and bolt. Or that your adorable spouse is threatening not to pay your bills. Please, please, let’s settle this amicably!

READ: 4 tools you can use to lower your debt

Here are the rules:

  1. You are both responsible for any debts run up on a joint credit card, no matter who made the purchase. That’s also true of co-signed debts – for example, a mortgage or student loan.
  2. In most states, your spouse isn’t responsible for your personal debts, put on your personal card. However, in a community property state, A spouse might have to pay at least some of the debt in a community property state, if the creditor puts his or her name on a lawsuit seeking a judgment. Normally, however, the creditor will go after only you.
  3. In any state, a creditor could go after your spouse if you used your personal card to pay for essentials that you both used – say, furniture or rent. Again, that would be the creditor’s decision.


Jane Bryant Quinn is a nationally known commentator on personal finance, with books and columns read and trusted by millions. In her long career, she has established herself as America’s most reliable voice for people trying to manage their money well. Read more of Jane's articles here