I am married and living in the State of NC.. My husband and I keep EVERYTHING separate. He Has his own Healthcare insurance and we recently found out about a serious health condition he has. Since the treatment began, he now has som Seriously OVERDUE medical bills that he has not taken care of and neither is he pressed about looking into them. Letters are coming threatening to report the bills to credit agencies. Am I also responsible for paying this debt? Will this effect my Good credit? What can I do to preserve all of my assets? Will this haunt me even if i seek divorce?
2 Answers from Attorneys
Generally speaking individual medical bills are the responsibility of the individual unless someone else signed to be financially responsible (i.e. guarantor). I will say, however, that in North Carolina there is an emerging trend of hospitals pursuing both spouses for medical bills under the legal doctrine of necessaries. This doctrine does allow a medical provider or other creditor to hold a spouse liable for the other spouse's medical bills in some situations. You should consult directly with a lawyer for specific information and direction.
I largely agree with Attorney O'Neal. This is not a new or emerging issue though.
Your husband is primarily liable for the debt and if the bills were incurred just by your husband then they will be on your husband's credit only.
The problem is that if the healthcare providers decide to sue then they will sue him AND you under the doctrine of necessaries.
That is a very good question that you ask about the divorce. The answer is I do not know. My guess, after reading the case below, is that unless the healthcare provider has reason to know of your separation, then you are going to be liable for all medical debts incurred by your husband up until the date of divorce.
If you are serious about the divorce, I would specifically notify any healthcare providers for your husband that you and he are separated and that you are not liable for any medical debts incurred after the date of separation. However, I think you will still be liable for any debts incurred prior to the date of separation and while you are married and living together. I would get it written into your marital separation agreement that your husband will either be responsible for those bills or you pay them off but you get a larger chunk of assets. You will have to discuss this with your divorce attorney as I don't know what assets you have or what would be feasible under the circumstances.
The case discussing the doctrine of necessaries is Forsyth Memorial Hospital v. Chisholm. 342 NC 616, 467 S.E.2d 88 (1996); you can access at the link below:
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