Is a Spouse Responsible for Medical Expenses of their Wife or Husband?

Full Question:

Been separated from my spouse for 7 years. Am I responsible the medical debts and expenses of my spouse?
06/03/2017   |   Category: Husband and ... ยป Liability fo...   |   State: ALL   |   #38590


At common law spouses were responsible for the debts of the other during the marriage. It applied to a Husbands duty to wife and later modified to include both being responsible for each other's debts.

Over time this has changed. Today whether you are responsible for your spouses debts including medical expenses depends on the State you live in.

In Community Property States the assets and debts acquired or made during the marriage are the property and debts of both parties.  For assets an exception applies to gifts and inheritance. For medical expenses incurred during the marriage both spouses are responsible in these community property States. It is not clear whether they would be jointly responsible for the full bill or 50/50. The Community Property States include Arizona, California, Idaho, Louisiana, Nevada, New Mexico, Texas, Washington and Wisconsin.

One theory Courts and some legislatures hold one spouse liable for medical expenses of the other involves the doctrine of necessities. Under he Necessities Doctrine a spouse if liable for necessities provided to his or her spouse such as food, shelter, or medical care.

Because times change and women rights have attempted to equalize economic and legal rights of women some States have changed the necessities doctrine.’ Alabama and Virginia, have eliminated the doctrine entirely by case law. In those States there is no liability for a spouses medical expenses. 

Kansas and New Jersey, have extended the doctrine to both spouses.

In Ohio the law of liability for medical expenses is covered by Statute. R.C. 3103.03. That law requires that a spouse pay for medical expenses of the other spouse only if the other spouse is not capable of supporting his or herself.  It also applies to other necessities.

In Kentucky a law was also enacted that makes the spouse liable for medical expenses. See KRS § 404.040. Review the statute to interpret it's provisions.

In Indiana there is no statute. But a Court opinion of the Supreme Court of Indiana has held that the spouse is secondarily liable for the medical expenses. It is complicated but yet another version of the law.

In most other States spouses are responsible for necessities of the other spouse.