Can you be held responsible for bills that are not yours?

Attorney Jason HopperQuestion:

My soon-to-be ex wife bought a pool while we were still together and married. Now that we are separated the judge ordered me to make the payments for the pool, but I am not on the loan for the pool at all, not even a co-signer. I thought you couldn’t be held responsible for bills that are not yours even if you are married?

 

Answer:

You have asked if a judge can order you to pay for liabilities incurred by your spouse during the course of your marriage which were obtained without your being a obligor to the liability.

Under Indiana Code 31-15-7-4, in an action for dissolution of marriage, the court is to divide the property [assets and liabilities] of the parties, whether owned by either spouse before the marriage, acquired by either spouse in his or her own right after the marriage [during the course of the marriage] and before final separation of the parties, or acquired by joint efforts, with division to be in a just and reasonable manner.  Thus, if the liability was incurred prior to the date of final separation, or the date in which either you or your spouse filed for dissolution or legal separation, the liability is part of your marital estate and is divisible as well.

If your matter has not yet proceeded to final hearing, you do have arguments which could be made to rebut the presumption that this liability is part of your divisible marital estate, including arguing that the pool amounts to a dissipation of marital assets, or that the economic circumstances between yourself and your wife do not permit you to be ordered to pay this liability.  Your arguments would need to be tailored in a very fact specific manner to your case.

Although I practice law in Indiana, I cannot give you legal advice without thoroughly reviewing your case. Do not rely on this information as establishing an attorney-client relationship. Contact an attorney immediately for assistance. Cordell & Cordell, P.C. does represent clients in Indiana. Thank you for submitting a question to Cordell & Cordell.

 

Jason P. Hopper is an Associate Attorney in the Indianapolis, Indiana office of Cordell & Cordell where his primary practice is exclusively in the area of domestic relations. Mr. Hopper is licensed in the state of Indiana – All State and Appellate courts, US District Court Northern District Indiana, US District Court Southern District Indiana, US Bankruptcy Court Southern District Indiana.

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