Thursday, May 31, 2012

Am I Liable for my Spouse’s Debts?

The common law doctrine of necessaries provided that a husband is liable to a creditor for necessaries provided to his wife.  Under Arkansas common law, the wife has not been held to be similarly liable.  Medlock v Fort Smith Service Finance Corp., 304 Ark. 652, 803 S.W. 930 (1991).  Necessaries include such things as food, clothing, medical care and housing.  See Davis v. Baxter County Regional Hospital, 313 Ark. 388, 855 S.W.2d 303 (1993), for a more extensive description of the doctrine.

However, Ark. Code Ann. § 9-11-516 abolished the doctrine of necessaries, stating, in part:

Absent express authority, neither a husband nor a wife is liable for the other’s debt obligations, including those for necessaries.

Ark. Code Ann. § 9-11-516(a)(1).

Ark. Code Ann. § 9-11-516 was passed by the Arkansas Legislature in the 2011 Regular Session and became effective on July 27, 2011.  Op. Ark. Att’y Gen. No. 56 (2011).

To sum up, women have never been liable for their husbands’ debts.  Men, on the other hand, are liable on their wives’ debts incurred for necessaries up until July 27, 2011, after which time men are not liable for their wives’ debts.