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Liability for Your Spouse's Bills After Separation

Posted on in Divorce

spousal separation billIf you and your husband or wife have separated, and your ex is claiming that you need to help pay his or her bills, beware. Under Illinois law, you are liable for any family expenses incurred by your spouse before you separated. On the other hand, once you are divorced, you cannot be held legally responsible for new expenses that your ex-husband or ex-wife incurs. However, if you are separated but not divorced, any bills that your spouse owes could become your responsibility.

Types of Bills you Could be Liable For

The Illinois Rights of Married Persons Act makes spouses liable for “the expenses of the family and of the education of the children.” Even if you did not agree to an expense, authorize it, or even know about it, you can be held accountable for it, as long as it was incurred for the benefit of the family.

It is not totally clear under the law what qualifies as a family expense. Medical bills for the children certainly count. In addition to medical expenses, Illinois courts have said funeral bills, jewelry (in certain cases), clothing, rent and other home-related payments are all family expenses. Borrowed money does not count, even if it is used to pay for something that is considered a family expense.

The only types of non-family expenses that you can be held liable for are those that you expressly agreed to pay, in writing, as well as bills for goods that you now have in your possession or services that you ordered.

If your spouse has outstanding medical bills, this could present a more complicated situation. Case law in Illinois has established that even if you are still legally married, you are not liable for your spouse’s medical expenses if you are not a “family in fact” when they were incurred. If you were living apart, this could seriously weaken your ex’s argument that you should have to pay his or her medical bills.

Other Illinois cases reject this “family in fact” test, claiming that living apart does not matter, and legally married spouses are still responsible for one another’s bills. In this context, it would be up to a judge to decide whether you could be made to pay your spouse’s expenses after you have separated.

Because neither separation nor divorce severs the legal tie between parent and child, parents continue to be liable for expenses incurred for their children’s benefit, even if they no longer have custody of the children.

Assistance from a Family Lawyer

To learn more about your financial responsibilities during a period of separation from your spouse, and how to protect yourself from being held accountable for bills that you didn’t incur, the help of an experienced family lawyer is indispensable.

Contact the DuPage County family law attorneys at the Davi Law Group, LLC today to schedule a consultation. Our offices are located in Warrenville, Wheaton, and Chicago.
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