Debt collectors claim you are personally liable for your spouse, or ex-spouse’s, debts.
That’s a (convenient) lie.
California community property law is complicated.
I get it.
It shouldn’t surprise me that debt collectors don’t understand community property.
Or maybe, they find it inconvenient to understand. Or maybe, they deliberately distort the law.
Collector expands spousal liability
A client reported that her ex husband had been told by a debt collector that the former marriage made him personally liable for his exwife’s debts.
There must be an emphatic, yet polite, word for b***s****.
Wish I knew the word… “Balderdash” seems so weak.
In my most generous view, this could be debt collectors from outside of California who are clueless about community property law. Or, more realistically, they’ll say whatever they think will scare a payment out of someone.
What California spouses owe
For the record, living in a community property state such as California does not make each spouse personally liable for the contractual debts incurred by their spouse.
If your spouse in California takes out a credit card and runs up a balance, you are not liable to the card issuer for the debt. The community property is liable for the debt, but you are not liable. That includes the community property that you’ve earned.
During the marriage, property that a married couple acquires is presumed to be community property. That community property includes your earnings as well as those of your spouse.
It may feel like community property law makes you personally liable, but here’s the distinction. That liability doesn’t follow you out of the marriage.
Death, divorce or a post post nuptial agreement with your spouse not to have community property ends whatever exposure the community had for your spouse’s debts.
If there is no community property, then only the person who contracted the debt is liable for it.
Don’t take legal advice from debt collectors
My client’s encounter with the “all-knowing ” debt collector is all too typical of collectors.
This is but one of the “whoppers” told by debt collectors.
Engage skepticism when dealing with this breed.
Or take notes, and check out the requirement that collectors tell the truth found in the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act and California’s Rosenthal Act.
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