Am I Liable for My Husband's Credit Card Debt in New York?

by Beth Winston ; Updated June 11, 2018
Be aware of your own liability for your husband's credit card debt.

If your husband has significant credit card debt, this can be a troubling situation. It’s important to understand your own liability in cases where your spouse has a spending habit that seems out of control. New York is a common law property state. This makes your liability a little clearer, and basically means you are not responsible if the card was in your husband's sole name.

You're Liable If It's a Joint Card

If the debt has been charged on a card on which you are a joint signatory, then you are also liable for the debt. By New York law, whenever you agree to co-mingle your income or your debts, they become joint property. It doesn’t matter if you have no knowledge of where the money went, or if you did not consent to the spending. If your name is on the account, you are also fully liable.

No Liability If He's a Single Card Holder

If the card is in your husband’s name only, then you are generally not liable for the debt. This is the case even if you are an authorized user, so long as you did not sign the agreement to open the account and your credit was not considered during the application. Credit card companies will sometimes still attempt to pursue a spouse on a debt owed by the other, but you have the law on your side in cases where you have not signed paperwork.

Exception if There is Joint Benefit

The only case in which a credit card company might have a case to pursue a spouse in New York is if the debt was incurred for the direct benefit of the couple or family as a whole. That typically will include family necessities items such as shelter, food and childcare. Even then, it's unlikely that a creditor could come after you for the entire credit card debt. Most times, a creditor could pursue you for your half-share of the joint debt only.

Common Law State Rules

There are nine community property states in the U.S. where it is easier for creditors to pursue non-signatory spouses for debt, as long as the spending was incurred to benefit both partners in the marriage. But New York is not one of them – instead, it is a common law property state. The only way you might run into a problem is if you lived in a community property state at the time the account was opened and subsequently moved to New York. In this case, you might want to consult an attorney in your previous state of residence to gauge your liability. The nine community property states are Arizona, California, Idaho, Louisiana, Nevada, New Mexico, Texas, Washington and Wisconsin.

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