Will my wife’s unpaid debt hurt my credit score?

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She has unpaid bills resulting from medical bills, which are arriving in her name only (although she is under my insurance coverage). She also has overdue bills resulting from goods purchased in her name only, such as magazine subscriptions and so forth. She has an attorney bill for over $ 3000 in her name alone. She also opened a bank account credit card with a secured line of credit which she has exceeded to the tune of nearly $ 500. That account is in her name alone.

I have excellent credit and am very responsible. Wish I could say the same for her. She lost her job but still managed to ring up debt. My concern is that her irresponsibility with all this will affect my credit, and that her creditors can eventually take action against me (I live in Illinois). So, down to only my income and having two children and her to support, I’m up against it with no room to spare. I continue to pay the mortgage and all bills in my name as a matter of priority, but then the money runs out. Her bills remain unpaid and they keep coming.

Can anybody advise me? Will my credit eventually be affected, and will the creditors hold me responsible? Thanks in advance.

5 Comments
  1. Reply
    anywhoo
    November 5, 2011 at 8:49 pm

    If those debts are in her name only then you cannot be held responsible for them. Illinois is not a community property state.

    Though I would suggest that if you have a joint checking and savings, you might consider taking her name off or you open a checking and savings account in your name only. She can be named beneficiary on the accounts so that if anything happens to you then she will be able to have the money in the accounts.

    Doing that could serve two purposes, it would keep the collectors from trying to tie up your bank accounts if they sue her and win, plus, it would be a good chance to put her on a budget by giving her cash for household expenses, groceries, school supplies and other essentials for the children, gas for her car, etc. There are some great printable budgeting sheets that you can find for free online.

  2. Reply
    fakehuskie
    November 5, 2011 at 9:26 pm

    No offense, but one you shouldn’t have married her until her debts were paid off. She is clearly financially irresponsible. Since the debt is only in her name, it only affects her. Now that you two are married, any debt you incur will affect both of you. You shouldn’t let her have an credit card until she is free and clear of debt.

  3. Reply
    Use Your Noodle
    November 5, 2011 at 10:25 pm

    If these creditors decide to sue, yes, it can affect you. Especially if you two have a joint bank account.

    Look, even IF you had everything separate, it is still going to affect you. Why? Well, you are married to this person… and have to deal with them day to day with their irresponsibility.

    Your wife needs either an intervention, counseling or a divorce.

  4. Reply
    stan c
    November 5, 2011 at 11:08 pm

    First off, do not listen to what others told you. When you marry some one, it’s for better or worse. If she’s using the joint checking account or credit cards for her personal use, you should close the checking account and credit cards and open at a different bank under your name only. In the event she tries to open an account using your info, you should put your name on fraud alert through Trans Union Fraud Dept. Their toll free # 1-800-680-7289. They’ll notify the other 2 bureaus and must be renewed every 90 days in order to keep it active. What happens then is if she tries to open an account with your info, they must contact you first before it can be processed.

  5. Reply
    Katherine W
    November 5, 2011 at 11:59 pm

    You should pull a credit report for her and for you from http://www.annualcreditreport.com. Don’t pull all three bureaus, just one at a time, and repeat with another one in four months. That way, you’ll see for yourself if her credit problems are showing up in your record. Opinions on Yahoo won’t tell you as much as seeing your report for yourself.

    You need to sit down and talk to her, if you haven’t already, and tell her that the stress on your marriage from her debt could wreck it. Ask her to start taking responsibility by 1) Going to http://www.debtorsanonymous.org and finding a meeting to attend, and 2) Going to a therapist (paid for by your health insurance) to learn why she is using money irresponsibly. You can go with her to the first session to explain your feelings, so she doesn’t avoid talking to the therapist about the money issue. If your insurance doesn’t cover counseling, go to a church and ask for counseling. Some churches have programs about money or ministers who will provide counseling. Look around for one that can help.

    It sounds like your wife is using purchasing to make herself feel better and it’s not working. She needs help, and you both need help to save your marriage.

    You might also try to find the book “Pay Down Your Debt” by Jeanne Chatzky. It’s quite helpful on learning how to cut.

    You should also look into government and nonprofit programs to help you. You may be able to find help paying your utility bills and getting some food for your family so that you can spend the money on other things.

    I’m sorry, you’ve got a tough row to hoe.

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