Q. My husband won't stop gambling. Am I liable for his gambling debts?
Janet, Lake Havasu, AZ
The community property that the two of you own is liable as to satisfy
his gambling obligations, assuming there is any left. Whether you are
liable to the Indian Casino or Las Vegas hotel beyond your share of the
community depends upon whether you have an independent contractual relationship
with them - i.e., a line of credit in your name.
As between you and your husband, unless you consented to his gambling
he may owe you (if your separate property is somehow attached to satisfy
the debt) or to the community estate a reimbursement or indemnification right.
If he is a professional gambler and this is his "work" the outcome
would be different. The outcome may also depend on whether the community
benefited from the gambling, i.e., if winnings were used to support the
community, then a court may deem it fair to share the obligation as to
This right of reimbursement would similarly exist if he squandered money
on drugs, or prostitutes, and so on - assuming you can prove it and trace
the money! The question is whether you consented and ripens when you can
establish that his conduct violated fiduciary duties owing you. One never
knows, however, how a judge will treat this on a case by case basis but
the law if moving towards greater accountability.
If his gambling does amount to a
breach of fiduciary duties owing you as a result of your marriage or domestic partnership, you have
To learn more about breach of fiduciary duties and what they may mean for
you, click here!
Thurman W. Arnold III