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I've just come across this article over on the mintlife blog and noticed that I do live in one of the ten community property states. I'm not overly familiar with this particular concept (keep in mind I moved here from the UK and the rules governing debt and spousal responsibility for them are obviously different just about everywhere), but my understanding is that both partners are liable for debt taken out by one partner in a marriage.

  • Does this include all types of debts, like credit cards, car loans, mortgages, student loans?
  • Does this only apply to debts that were taken on during marriage or to all debts of both partners? Ie if you have student loans dating prior to your marriage, is your partner still liable for those? Or for 'old' credit card debt?
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No two states have the same exact laws regarding community property. I would recommend asking a competent financial advisor in your area, as they would be more familiar with the local statutes.

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(Yes, I know this is a seven year old question.)

Does this only apply to debts that were taken on during marriage

Yes

or to all debts of both partners?

No.

The important thing to remember is that it's both debts and assets acquired during the marriage which are shared.

This comes from the reality that men in the olden times were the ones in business, accumulating wealth, etc while the woman "made the home". The working assumption was that the woman who made the home was an equal partner with the man, since he benefited from a good home, and she benefited from his income.

The fact that pre-marriage debts and assets were not community property also protected the woman, because she was able to then take back her dowry and use that to support herself.

(N.B. - I live in a CP state.)

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I know one piece of information that can help you (in a macabe sort of way) - from what my wife has told me, if your partner dies, you are not responsible for paying for their debts, especially student loans. I expect the same thing for credit cards - if someone were to happen to charge $2,000 on their credit card and get hit by a bus, the credit card company can cajole and plead for you to pay for it, but you have no legal requirement to do so.

Unfortunately I do not have as much information about as if you spouse is living.

  • I was aware of this stipulation (ie the estate of the deceased is responsible for settling the debts of the deceased) but even that might be different if the debt has been taken on during the marriage (if I'm completely paranoid)... – Timo Geusch Oct 29 '10 at 18:13
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    That isn't necessarily true in community property states. Also, the estate of the deceased will have to settle debts, and the executor (often a spouse) will need to deal with that. – duffbeer703 Oct 30 '10 at 22:01

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