Generally, whatever assets and debts a couple accumulate during a marriage can be split between them at divorce.
But what if a husband racks up an enormous amount of credit card debt without his wife knowing about it? Should she still be responsible for half the bill?
In one recent case, the Kentucky Supreme Court said “no.”
The couple in that case divorced after being married for 42 years. Late in their marriage, the husband ran up $65,000 in credit card debt trying to help their adult son recover from financial setbacks.
The husband didn’t consult his wife ahead of time, and tried to keep her from finding out about the payments.
In the divorce case, the husband argued that because he ran up the debt while fulfilling a parental obligation to help one’s children, it should be considered a marital debt for which the wife was equally responsible.
But the court decided otherwise, pointing out that parents have no legal obligation to help adult children.
In fact, the only connection the wife had to the debt was the fact that she was married to the person who accumulated it, the court said. Because she didn’t consent to the debt, didn’t have any knowledge of it, and didn’t receive any direct benefit from it, it would be unfair to burden her with any part of it after the divorce.