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What Is Community Debt?

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In a Nutshell

Community debt is any debt that you or your spouse incur while married or any debt for which you and your spouse are co-signers. There are 10 community property states where spouses or legal partners may have community debt. This article outlines the 10 community property states and how having community debt may affect your bankruptcy filing.

Written by Kristin Turner, Harvard Law Grad
Updated November 18, 2021

If you live in one of 10 community property states and you're married, you may have community debt. Community debt is any debt that you or your spouse incur while married. The community property states where there is community debt are:

  • Arizona

  • California

  • Idaho

  • Louisiana

  • Nevada

  • New Mexico

  • Texas

  • Washington

  • Wisconsin

  • Alaska (not community debt by default, but you can sign an agreement with your spouse making your debt community debt)

If either you or your spouse file bankruptcy, neither of you will be responsible for your dischargeable community debt any longer.

If you divorce or legally separate from your spouse before you file bankruptcy, you will only be responsible for debts that you personally incurred — with a few exceptions. Former spouses are still responsible for any debts that either of them incurred for family necessities, to maintain joint property (like a home), or for which they are still co-signers.

In most states, these rules apply equally to debts acquired in traditional and common-law marriages, same-sex marriages, and same-sex domestic partnerships. The rules also apply to civil unions in states where those relationships are the equivalent of marriage, but not in states where the relationship does not confer all the rights of marriage.

It's important that you accurately determine which type of debt you have so that you can determine who will be responsible for it after you file bankruptcy.

Written By:

Kristin Turner, Harvard Law Grad


Kristin is a recipient of Harvard Law School’s Public Welfare Foundation A2J Tech Fellowship. At Harvard Law, she served as a member of the Harvard Defenders, the Women’s Law Association, and the Harvard Law Negotiation Review. She was the 2016 – 2017 president of the Harvard Bla... read more about Kristin Turner, Harvard Law Grad

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