Impact of Divorce on Collection Actions

Many debtors mistakenly believe that an order of a court in a divorce proceeding can act as a shield against their creditors. Others have been under the impression that once they separate and move out of the marital home, they are no longer responsible for household debts.

When a married couple shares liability for a debt and a judgment is entered against one or both spouses for such a debt, the court in a divorce action may subsequently order one spouse or the other to be responsible for the repayment of the debt.

However, this divorce order is not a defense to the collection of the judgment against them or to the underlying legal liability for a debt (provided by contract, for example.) The entry of a civil judgment against someone is not trumped by a divorce decree. The creditor remains able to pursue collection of the debt against the responsible party regardless of any divorce decree directing the other spouse to pay the bill.

Connecticut General Statutes §46b-37 provides that both husband and wife are liable for necessaries for each other (even though living apart) such as services of a physician or dentist, hospital expenses or any article going to the support of the family or for the joint benefit of both.

Also, even after divorce, equitable arguments can be made that goods or services provided which benefited the martial home are the responsibility of both parties when they continue to share an ownership interest in the property.