Getting a divorce can mean a fresh start at a new life – from settling into a different home, exploring new-found interests, and even embarking on new relationships. But getting a divorce doesn’t always ensure a clean break. In fact, newly separated couples are often unpleasantly surprised when they receive a phone call from a medical collection agency regarding healthcare debts incurred by their former spouse.
In situations such as these, it can be confusing trying to figure out whether you genuinely have an obligation to pay the bill in question. Following are some questions you can ask yourself as you try to get to the bottom of the debt collection problem.
Where were you living at the time the debt was incurred?
In most states, both partners can be held liable responsible for any debts incurred during the course of the marriage – this especially includes medical bills, as they are seen as ‘necessary’ expenses. There is a catch, however. If you and your spouse were legally separated and living under different roofs, even if you weren’t divorced yet, you might not be responsible for the debt. To be on the safe side, be sure to verify this with an attorney in your state.
Were your debts divided up as part of the divorce settlement?
During divorce proceedings, it’s standard for a judge to divide debts up among both spouses. The amount of debt each party is responsible for can vary depending on different factors. In some cases, medical debts are divided up equally. However, if one spouse is unemployed, the full responsibility might fall on the other, regardless of whether the medical bills are theirs.
What can you do if you don’t think you should be held responsible for your former spouse’s medical bills?
If you are contacted by a medical collection agency for a debt you feel you shouldn’t have to pay, find out the specifics of the bill – when were the fees incurred, what services were performed, etc. Talk to your ex-spouse about contacting the medical debt collection agency and setting up a payment plan. If necessary, contact a lawyer to find out what options are available to you should your former spouse refuse to pay.