Wednesday, February 21, 2007

The liability of married people for their spouse's debts

I cannot generally fault the online Indiana Code that the State of Indiana has on its website. However, today I can because I really wanted to check the legislative history of a statute and I cannot. The online version only shows the date that Indiana revised Title 31 back in 1997. That it does not have the full legislative history shows a basic good sense. For the statute I am interested in, I really do not need to know the date that the statute first passed into Indiana law. I know it has been a very long time. It is just that I get asked quite frequently about a wife's or a husband's responsibility for a debt of the other and I would like to be able to say "Since 18- or 19-, Indiana law has been ....." Oh, well, I will take a look at the courthouse library. Following here is the law on the liabilities of married couples:

IC 31-11-7-1
Abolition of legal disabilities of married women to make contracts
31-11-7-1 Sec. 1. All legal disabilities of a married woman to make contracts are abolished.
As added by P.L.1-1997, SEC.3.

IC 31-11-7-2
Married women's property rights
31-11-7-2 Sec. 2. A married woman has the same rights concerning real and personal property that an unmarried woman has.
As added by P.L.1-1997, SEC.3.

IC 31-11-7-3
Tort liability of married women
31-11-7-3 Sec. 3. A married woman is liable for torts committed by the woman.
As added by P.L.1-1997, SEC.3.

IC 31-11-7-4
Husband's immunity for wife's contracts or torts
31-11-7-4 Sec. 4. A husband is not liable for the contracts or torts of his wife.
As added by P.L.1-1997, SEC.3.
Bottom line: if one incurred a debt only in their own name, then the other cannot be liable for the debt. However, if they both incur a debt in both their names, then both are liable.


MrBabysM said...

Regarding IC 31-11-7-2, do you have any case law on this? My friend is going through a divorce, and her husband is constantly stealing her items, and then pawning them. She's called the police department, only to be told, and incorrectly, I keep reminding her, that it is a community property state. The police, I know, just enforce what they think are the laws. Sometimes they get some really funny notions, or haven't been updated. Can you help me out here in helping my friend out?


Sam Hasler said...

First, I cannot give any advice - see the disclaimer on that. But i have to say that the statute does not apply to what you are inquiring about. This statue only sets out that a woman's rights in property do not change when she gets married. In the old, old days a woman brought property into a marriage and it became the husband's.

Second, this is not a community property state. As usual, the cops do not know family law.