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Q & A

Q. During my 10 year marriage, my wife and I accumulated significant debt. During this last year my wife began using our credit cards to go on spending sprees, during one of which she charged $50,000 worth of jewelry at Tiffany's. We both work and have good jobs, but she has refused to make any payments towards these credit card bills, and in fact she has hidden many of them from me, claiming to have paid them. I only learned of how much we owe and that she has not been making the payments when I received a call from one of the credit card companies demanding payment and threatening to cut off the credit. She is clearly doing this to ruin my credit, but she is also ruining her own. I believe she is becoming mentally unstable - this is just one sign of her erratic behavior. But first I need to know what to do about this debt.

A. In general, debt accumulated during the marriage is joint and you both are responsible for it. However, her spending sounds like what we call in the profession "marital waste", and she alone would ordinarily be held responsible to repay the debt accumulated in this manner. Unless she can show that your marital lifestyle included this sort of spending and that you supported it, she cannot show that this sort of spending was for a marital purpose. You have a good chance of not being held responsible.

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