California Family Law Attorney

Liability of a Spouse's Separate Property for Debts of Other Spouse

Family Code section 914 makes a married person's separate property liable for debts incurred by the other for necessaries of life while the parties are still married and are living together, and if the spouses are living separately separate property remains liable for the "common" necessaries of life of the second party. However, under certain conditions a reimbursement right may exist in favor of the first party if there existed non-exempt community property or if the second party had separate property that could have been applied to the debt.

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CALIFORNIA FAMILY CODE

Family Code Section 914 (Effective 1/1/17)

Personal liability for debts incurred by person's spouse during marriage

(a) Notwithstanding Section 913, a married person is personally liable for the following debts incurred by the person's spouse during marriage:

(1) A debt incurred for necessaries of life of the person's spouse before the date of separation of the spouses.

(2) Except as provided in Section 4302, a debt incurred for common necessaries of life of the person's spouse after the date of separation of the spouses.

(b) The separate property of a married person may be applied to the satisfaction of a debt for which the person is personally liable pursuant to this section. If separate property is so applied at a time when nonexempt property in the community estate or separate property of the person's spouse is available but is not applied to the satisfaction of the debt, the married person is entitled to reimbursement to the extent such property was available.

(c)

(1) Except as provided in paragraph (2), the statute of limitations set forth in Section 366.2 of the Code of Civil Procedure shall apply if the spouse for whom the married person is personally liable dies.

(2) If the surviving spouse had actual knowledge of the debt prior to expiration of the period set forth in Section 366.2 of the Code of Civil Procedure and the personal representative of the deceased spouse's estate failed to provide the creditor asserting the claim under this section with a timely written notice of the probate administration of the estate in the manner provided for pursuant to Section 9050 of the Probate Code, the statute of limitations set forth in Section 337 or 339 of the Code of Civil Procedure, as applicable, shall apply.

(d) For purposes of this section, "date of separation" has the same meaning as set forth in Section 70.