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Husband/Wife liability?


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Am I Liable?

My situation is a little complicated (but I’ll let you be the judge of that), so here goes. After we got married, my wife got a Chase credit card after receiving an offer in the mail for a $1,500 credit limit. She signed up for the card using her married name. She got behind in the payments due to money troubles we were having and it eventually landed into collections with a law firm representing ANOTHER creditor who bought our account from Chase.

The lawyer has been calling us and threatening to sue my wife. My wife (by herself) has no job, or assets to speak of, or any funds what-so-ever, which make me wonder how far this can go.

I called a credit counselor and they informed that even if I arrange payments through them, the law firm can still sue. She told me that if my name hasn’t been attached to the card (meaning, I’m not an authorized user, which I am not), that they can’t come after me for the money. They can sue my wife and maintain a judgment against her, but they can’t legally collect the debt from me. The credit counselor asked me then if I had a joint bank account with my wife and I said no. I have a bank account in my name only. Also, to make things even more complicated, my wife hasn’t “officially” changed her named documents to reflect her new name. Her driver’s license, Social Security card, etc, still reflect her maiden name (I don’t know where the marriage license fits into this!), but the Chase card was with her married name.

I’m asking someone (anyone) to offer answers to each of the following questions in turn. I thank anyone in advance who takes the time to do this! So, if the law firm pursues a lawsuit against my wife, therefore establishing a judgment against her until such time she has anything they can collect from, can they come after me at all? Even though she got the card after we got married? The “getting the card after we got married” part worries me a bit. Am I also liable for this debt even though I’m not officially named as a user of the card. More questions below:

1. We don’t have a joint bank account. The account is in my name through a credit union. They can’t “freeze” my account right? I was told that they couldn’t do a thing there because her name isn’t on the account.

2. Since I’m not listed as an authorized user of the credit card, they can’t go after me for the debt right? Is this true even though she got the card AFTER we got married and used her married name (even though, at that point, she hadn’t legally changed it as mentioned before)?

3. Is there ANY way they can try to collect the debt from me legally or pursue me in any way?

If the answer to all of the above is “NO”, then I have time to take care of this thing when I have the funds to do so. I won’t be “bullied” into selling my first born so they can get their money (and make their amount of profit on the collection). I’m in the process of credit repair and plan to buy a house in my name for us in the future and have to use my funds for that endeavor. I’ll take care of that debt in order.

If the answer is yes, then what options do I have? They want to settle for half (about $1,200, but I don’t have that right now). Any help would be really appreciated.

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First off, even if you were an Authorized User, they can not touch you. The debt is her responsibility only. It does not matter if it was before or after the marraige. Even a Judgment cannot touch your funds or your wages. But, they can get to any joint accounts.

I am not familiar with liens on a home or other community property, so would advise you check into your State's laws as to what can and can not be touched. Also, one of the others may already know the answers and may respond to this, so let it sit for another day or so.

You can send a DV letter to this "ADUB" with a limited C&D so the calls will stop and he must communicate by mail only. True, it may encourage him to file suit now, but, you want him to stop calling. In the meantime, sit down and make a list, as complete as possible, of each and every call from him. You want the date, time, name, and main points of the conversations, especially the threats. I'm sure you can't remember everything, so do the best you can. Be sure and include some of the threats in your letter. This is to demonstrate to him that you remember exactly what was said on the phone, plus, if it did go to court, he would have a hard time defending his actions when you bring up about his violations. He cannot threaten you each time on the phone. If he told you one time that he was going to sue you and didn't, it is a violation.

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That's makes me feel better.

I have talked to them on the phone on a number of occasions and expressed an interest in settling the debt. Even though I'm not legally responsible for the debt, that still shouldn't involve me I wouldn't think.

But these are lawyers nonetheless. I certainly wouldn't want anything said over the phone to be used against me. I never actually set up an agreement with them.

Maybe I'm getting a bit paranoid here. Eventually, I do want to get this settled (on my wife's behalf), but I'll do it when I have the money and in one lump sum payment.

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Get a copy of one of the DV letters found here and include in it a limited C&D.

They cannot file suit until they vadlidate the debt to you..

Take Retmars advice.. he knows his shtuff

Good luck to you

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I want to thank everyone for the help and advice. I guess they will eventually sue my wife. I have to learn more about process (e.g. does she have to physically go to court or do they just issue a judgement). I really didn't want it to get to this, but I have no choice as I don't have the funds they're looking for. At least not right now.

The other thing they suggested is to put "money down" and then make payments each month, but my income is strained as it is.

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One thing that has not been mentioned yet is that the law firm is representing a different company than Chase (the original issuer of the card). If Chase sold the account to this other party after the account went delinquent then the new holder of the account is a debt collector under the definition of the FDCPA. They can't hide behind the OC protections if the account was past due when they bought it. DV this other party and the law firm. Once they get the DV letters they are required by law to cease all collection activities until they provide the proof that the account is yours (hers), that the amount claimed is correct, and that they have a legal right to collect it (if they don't prove they bought it from Chase, how do you know they did? Their "word" on it?)

Also check www.lawdog.com to see if your State requires collectors to be licensed. If so they may be breaking that law there as well if they have not obtained the proper licenses and/or posted the proper bond.

Any violations of the FDCPA or your State Laws may entitle you to an off-set against the balance they are claiming. If you can prove even one FDCPA violation you may be able to reduce the amount owed by $1000 right off the bat.

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Good catch, Methuss.

money_man1, pay close attention to what Methuss is saying in his last paragraph. This is what I was referring to in my last as this is what you are striving for, but, Methuss' wording gives you a better idea of the importance of violations.

Do not, for any reason, agree to any plan in settling this account, yet. Follow our advice and get the proof all of us were mentioning. Then, add up the violations and counter before you agree. Remember, you do not want to chance getting this account reaged. What I mean is some States require a written agreement to restart the clock while some don't. You need to be careful.

Lastly, even if you are the party doing all of the talking or discussing, they cannot threaten you personally, such as demanding you, yourself, to settle the account for your wife.

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I did a little digging and there are currently nine community property states. They are as follows:

* Arizona

* California

* Idaho

* Louisiana

* Nevada

* New Mexico

* Texas

* Washington

* Wisconsin

Since, I'm in New York, I think I'm safe. Have I got this correct? I'm not in a community property state, so I'm not liable. I'm considering consulting with a lawyer further. As far as the "debt validation" portion, I got one of those lawyer/collector letters stating the debt owed and if I didn't respond in so many days, they will assume the debt is valid. I didn't respond, so I think I can't do the "formal request" in writing.

I do have another question concerning my situation that I'm hoping still qualifies to be included in this thread.

If I can't be touched and they sue my wife (e.g. file a judgement), what are the extenuating ramifications? I'll give you a little background.

My wife has no income (no job), she's a stay at home mom

The only checking/bank account we have is in my name (no joint checking), so they can't go after that.

We have a car, but again, it's in my name, her name is nowhere on the contract.

She has no viable assets, inheritances, trusts, etc to speak of.

In short, she has nothing they can "go after". With this being the case, what would they do after realizing that? I was told by a friend that they will still file the judgment and let it "sit in place" until such time when she gets something they can go after. Other than that, they currently have no resources (from my wife) at their disposal that they can get their hands on legally. Am I correct concerning this?

What are the other "hidden costs" of having a judgement? I plan on buying a home in my name (I'm the only one employed), so I don't think her situation will be a hindrance. I certainly don't want it to get to that point, but they want half or nothing. At least that where it seems to be going. I simply cannot do that at the moment. If they file a final judgement, can the interest on the account still accrue? Do they bundle in their legal costs to file the judgement in the amount owed as well? Even if they went that route (the worst case scenario), I STILL have the chance of settling the account. I was also told that a great deal of the time, they don't sue, only because the time, energy, and effort involved isn't worth the endeavor. That doesn't sound right to me, but I have heard it in more than one circle of conversations.

I want to thank everyone who has helped me so far. It's a long road ahead, but this board makes me feel better about it! As always, I welcome any or all thoughts on this.

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