A common question we get asked is whether a person can be held responsible for another person’s debts. The concern most often comes up with regard to a spouse, such as a wife being concerned about responsibility for her husband’s debts or vice versa or a parent being responsible for a child’s debt or a child being concerned about a parent’s debt. The short and simple answer is that no, you cannot be held responsible for another person’s debts. This analysis changes, however, if you have signed as a responsible party, either as a co-signer or guarantor on the debt. A simple way to check this is to determine whether or not you signed the contract for the underlying debt with your husband/wife/parent/child/friend. If you have not signed the contract and never had a connection to the debt (also referred to legally as privity of contract), the debt itself does not transfer over to you simply by virtue of the fact that you have a relationship with that person.
Debt collectors, however, sometimes will try to deceive one person into believing that they are, in fact, responsible for paying another person’s debt even though that party did not sign the underlying contract. If that type of collection harassment is happening to you, make sure to use the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act and put the debt in dispute. Please see my previous blog posts regarding the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act and the protections it affords consumers and how a person can dispute debts.
If you or your family member or friends are getting harassed by debt collectors or if third parties you know are being contacted by debt collectors, please feel free to contact our office nearest to you to set up a free consultation visit to sit down with one of our licensed attorneys to explore your options in a private and confidential setting.
Ron Sykstus is a Managing Partner of several of the Bond & Botes Law Offices throughout Alabama. He holds a Bachelor of Science from the University of Arizona, Tucson, and a Juris Doctorate from the Northern Illinois University College of Law. Ron has served in numerous positions throughout the U.S. Army and now utilizes his expertise in the areas of VA issues, security clearances, military law, and bankruptcy to assist his clients when they need it most. Read his full bio here.