Can a creditor take one spouse’s money if we have separate accounts?


Q. My spouse and I kept separate bank accounts and retirement accounts with our names on them only. Can a creditor of my spouse take money from one of my spouse’s accounts to pay for my debts?
— Concerned

A. When married couples have separate accounts, there is a balancing act.

There are certain protections, though.

A spouse generally should not be held liable for their spouse’s debts unless they are a co-signer on their credit card or have a joint account, said Jody D’Agostini, a certified financial planner with Equitable Advisors/The Falcon Financial Group in Morristown.

If you held any joint credit card debt, then you would be held liable, she said.

“If everything has been titled separately, you should not be responsible, nor should the creditor be able to garnish money from any of your accounts to satisfy the debt,” D’Agostini said.

In a divorce, however, marital debt is considered to be joint unless certain criteria are met, she said.

“A postnuptial agreement can legally make sure that their debt is not your debt,” she said. “If you maintain separate bank accounts, investment accounts, and credit cards you can keep the debts separately liable.”

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This story was originally published on May 26, 2023. presents certain general financial planning principles and advice, but should never be viewed as a substitute for obtaining advice from a personal professional advisor who understands your unique individual circumstances.