Debt can be a touchy topic, especially when the discussion turns to making payments. Some people adopt an “out of sight, out of mind” perspective when debt is concerned; however this is a dangerous mindset to encourage. That is perhaps especially true when it comes to spouses. It is essential to understand how the law in Illinois works when determining who is responsible for credit card debt in the state. You might find yourself liable even if you weren’t the individual who initially took out the loan or credit card.
The Family Expense Act
Almost every family experiences some crisis at some point. For many, that means that they might find themselves in dire need of money and scramble to find sources. This naturally leads to things like loans or credit cards being obtained to help keep the family as secure as possible in the midst of a crisis. Taking care of our family tends to trump everything else, regardless of whether taking a credit card or loan out is the best option at the time.
In the state of Illinois, it is possible for spouses to be held accountable for each other’s debts. If the debt was taken out to benefit the family, then it doesn’t necessarily matter which spouse signs the contract. All that matters is that the debt existed and was acquired during the marriage. If you divorce your spouse before that debt is resolved, you could find yourself responsible for making payments. This isn’t true in every case, however, and there are some guidelines you should keep in mind.
What counts as a “family expense”?
Mentioned briefly above, the Family Expense Act makes spouses jointly responsible for debts that are taken out during a marriage to sustain or otherwise help the family. That means that the expense has to be something that applies to the family in general. In general, these debts also must be used to specific expenses, not just money loans that are taken out with no real reason behind them. Some expenses included in this act include:
• Medical Bills
• Certain Types of Jewelry
• Funeral Bills
• Domestic Servant Wages
As you can see, the expenses above all have a purpose that helps sustain the family, with the possible exceptions being certain kinds of jewelry. If you end up in debt due to trying to pay rent, pay medical bills, or buy clothing – for work or your children, for example – that debt might be considered a family expense. Even work clothes often qualify under this act since adhering to a dress code is often a vital part of keeping a job, and that job sustains the family.
What can I do if I’m being held responsible for my spouse’s debts?
If you are being held responsible for debts that you didn’t take out and that you don’t believe should qualify as a family expense, your best bet is to reach out to an experienced family law attorney in Illinois as quickly as possible. They can help better decide whether the debt in question qualifies under the Family Expense Act and who should be legally responsible for paying it.
For more information about who is responsible for paying the debt in Illinois, reach out to the experts at Abear Law Offices today!