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My Wife's Debt - Should I Pay It?

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    My Wife's Debt - Should I Pay It?

    In 2004 my wife and I filed for bankruptcy; chapter 7. Afterward I knew we had previously acted like children with our money, and realized we needed to change how we dealt with our finances. I decided my wife and I were not going to borrow another dime again.

    In mid-2008 I found out my wife had gotten several credit cards without my permission. I looked into the matter a bit and found it no problem to get the credit card companies to give away her credit information. This is of course illegal on their part, but informative for me. My wife denied ever having done anything without my permission except for when it was clear I knew what she had done.

    I found out that my wife owed about $5,000 to credit card companies, and that she had been paying them with money from my checking account.

    I got another checking account and I refused to allow my wife access to the new account. I started giving her an allowance to pay for groceries and small things.

    I started getting collection calls from Capital One on my cell phone, which is also my work phone. At first it was one call per day. I looked into my credit record and found that my wife had attached my name to her credit card. I argued with Capital One saying that I never signed anything and never agreed to borrow money from them. I told them to stop calling me, since it was not my debt and it was my work phone. They told me my request would be processed. The phone calls continued and I complained more. Each time I called they told me they would take me off their calling list. Eventually I was told it would take 6-8 weeks to remove me from the calling list. Then the phone call rate increased over several days until I was getting two and sometimes three phone calls a day, every day. Then, after I made many calls to them trying to get them to stop calling me, I acted rude (BIG mistake). Capital One then started calling me 4 and 5 times a day while I was trying to sleep (I told them I sleep in the daytime because I drive an 18-wheeler at night). I didn't owe them a dime (the debt was in my wife's name), and I repeatedly told them that, but they continued to call my cell phone. I eventually told them I was afraid I was going to get into an accident and kill somebody because I was so tired from being woken up from the phone calls. They again told me they would take me off the call list, but it would take 6-8 weeks. Afterward I realized I made the mistake of being rude. Had I not been rude they wouldn't have harassed me so many times a day.

    Just yesterday I talked to NCO Financial Collections, who called me on my work-cell phone. I was so frustrated by now that I told them the utter truth, which was basically "My wife has no income, she has no assets, the cars are in my name, she is disabled, she filed for social security and got denied because of a lack of previous income, and my wife will almost certainly never have an income again. You can't garnish the wages of someone that doesn't have wages. The debt isn't in my name and their is no legal obligation for me to pay a dime. However, I don't like that she is in debt. I am willing to pay some money to get rid of this debt, but I'm certainly not going to pay the original amount since Capital One knew ahead of time that she was a high risk, and since the garbage she bought didn't benefit me.

    NCO Financial Collections agreed for me to pay them $2,000 to get rid of the $4,000 debt. The problem I have is that they refused to allow me to pay by any means other than a check-by-mail. They refused to send me the written agreement. I am seriously skeptical. I think they are just going to take my $2,000 check, cash it, and then say my wife owes another $2,000. If I argue they would simply say they never agreed to any settlement.

    I was mad at my wife for all of this at first. We came very close to divorce. But I don't want a divorce, and we have been working things through much better. We get along much better than before. Still though, she has this debt that is a big problem.

    I don't mind if she has bad credit for 20 years (like NCO Financial said she would). But I don't want to continue to worry about more lawyer's bills being added (like NCO said), and eventually me being stuck with having to pay it. I don't want to settle the debt at all. I want to ignore it. It's not mine. But I feel like I will only be putting off a debt that eventually the courts will rule that I have to pay (plus all the interest and fees for my not having paid in the first place). I'm also worried if the debt doesn't get paid she will lose her license or be pressured in some other legal way that puts stress on me.

    Help please!!

    Being a community property there is no way around that. But i think you might be better off without her...imo.
    Got debt?


      Do not send them a check with your bank account information on it...they will then pull the rest from your account. Stop talking to them. Do not answer their have caller id on your phone, yes?

      It does not sound like you owe the money, so I would not pay.
      My other blog is Your Organized Friend.


        Ok, thanks for the advice.

        I didn't think of the idea that they might take more from my account than I authorize. Thanks for bringing that to my attention.

        I know I don't owe the money. The debt isn't in my name. But I'm worried that something bad will happen in the future if something isn't done.

        If she has bad credit for 20 years I don't care. I just don't want her to get arrested, or lose her license, or something else that will cause me trouble.


          Additionally, often times if you agree to pay for any reason you accept responsibility for the debt. If you do that, you won't be able to get it removed from your credit report as inaccurate.

          If you want this to go away and work things out with your wife, help her settle over the phone with them for the $2k or whatever. Get them to mail or fax you written confirmation that the $2k will be accepted as a settlement to the account (important!). Get a money order or other form of payment not linked to any account, and send it as if from your wife. The key is to have your wife accept responsibility for it, even if she is paying with your money. That way, you are assuming no responsibility and at the same time ending this madness. After it's all over, dispute anything that's inaccurate on your credit report and it should be removed. Your wife will have a paid collection on her report for up to 7 years, but that's the only real damage (other than the loss of the $2k).

          Sorry about your situation! I hope you are able to get it worked out, and can do what's best in the situation with your wife.


            Your wife cannot lose her driver's license or get arrested due to unpaid bills.
            "There is some ontological doubt as to whether it may even be possible in principle to nail down these things in the universe we're given to study." --text msg from my kid

            "It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men." --Frederick Douglass


              It sounds like the collectors you've spoken with have crossed the line of what they're legally allowed to do and say while attempting to collect on her debt. Strangely, Friday's episode of "Dateline" was devoted to this exact thing -- it was the first thing that popped into my head as I read some of your comments. For instance, you've mentioned how you're afraid your wife will be arrested and/or lose her driving privileges, which sounds like something the collectors told you was a possibility.

              PLEASE read some of the links on Dateline's website about this and educate yourself of you -- and your wife's -- rights when it comes to debt collection:

              Know your rights when it comes to debt - The Hansen Files with Chris Hansen-

              Regarding your first comments about getting Capital One to discuss your wife's accounts with you when you called: As a former CapOne call center supervisor, I can tell you that as long as the caller can correctly verify the account, by providing the cardholder's name, telephone number, last four SSN digits, birthdate and address, the phone representative must take the call. Some cardholders request having an "Ok to Speak With" note added on their accounts, which means someone not officially on the account (such as a spouse or adult child) has permission to speak with the phone rep on the cardholder's behalf -- provided that the "OK to SW" can verify the account. Otherwise, ff a caller says, "I'm the cardholder's spouse, and I'd like to discuss his/her account," the phone rep cannot discuss the account with the caller or even acknowledge that such an account exists, unless the cardholder gets on the phone and grants permission.

              That said, I'm sure there are phone reps that disregard that policy, which is set up to comply with federal privacy laws. So it's very possible that a CapOne representative discussed your wife's account with you without her permission. However, if you called up and said, "Hi, my name is Jessica Smith and I'd like to discuss my account," and then you were able to verify all the account information, then they'd have had no choice but to discuss it with you, and they would not be violating the privacy policy by doing so. They cannot (nor should they) assume that they're not talking to the cardholder because of the way the caller's voice sounds.

              ~ Jenney


                Originally posted by neatdesign View Post
                It sounds like the collectors you've spoken with have crossed the line of what they're legally allowed to do and say while attempting to collect on her debt.
                That may be true, but the debt is still valid. The only way to truely be done with this whole mess (aside from divorce) is to help your wife pay up. Illegal tactics mean you can file a complaint, but they don't erase the fact that money is owed. If tactics were illegal, file a complaint. But my advice on paying that debt still stands.

                If you are afraid this will happen again and again, divorce might be the only option. In that case, don't waste your $2k.


                  Thanks for your responses.

                  I'm not sure how to go about filing a complaint, but it seems like it would be pointless. The phone call wasn't recorded, so they would just say it wasn't true.

                  My wife has about $7,000 in debt right now because of the fees and interest. Should we try to settle this ourselves or would we be better off getting a debt settlement lawyer? I've been reading about people settling debt and the supposed forgiven portion is still said to be owed and people have to settle that too. I can do my best not to be scammed, but a lawyer would make sure we are not scammed.

                  What is the worst that would happen if the debt just was never paid? Would the court rule that she has to pay it? Would she be in violation of the court ruling since she can't pay it?


                    If you do get a settlement on the debt, you will still have to pay taxes on the "forgiven" portion as income.

                    I believe that the CC company can sue your wife to get her to pay the debt, whether or not they actually take it that far...who knows. I highly recommend that you spend some quality time over at the forums in - Credit Help, Credit Repair Tips, News, Forums. One of the big things I learned over there is that you should never "talk" to the company, get EVERYTHING in writing. Anything you do regarding this situation should be done in writing.


                      I'm just curious what would happen if they sue her. She would probably lose and be ordered to pay. But she has nothing to pay with, so what then? Can the courts enforce anything else?



                        I don't know a whole lot more than you but just personally I would at least call some debt settlement lawyers just to see where you're at with this thing legally. Also I agree with what someone above said about your bank account information, I once had an insurance company set me up for automatic monthly billing and they assured me they'd only bill me one month at a time and I was worried about it because I'm a college student on a fixed income but I listened to them and agreed to do the automated billing. Well long story short they basicly emptied my bank account and left me with no way to pay my college bill and many other bills! Fortunately I was able to get them to refund all but that months money but then they did it again the next month and I had to go through the whole process over again! Yeah I'd be very carefull giving out a bank account number to any collection company. Hope this helps, good luck


                          Originally posted by beta decay View Post
                          I'm just curious what would happen if they sue her. She would probably lose and be ordered to pay. But she has nothing to pay with, so what then? Can the courts enforce anything else?
                          If your name is on the account as a joint cardholder, the courts will absolutely rule you as responsible to pay the debt. You might be able to get your name removed, but that probably means accusing your wife of fraud which is a whole other mess. Even if you do that, you can be liable for the debt simply because you are married and it was incurred during your marriage. You don't want this debt haunting you. Help your wife settle, and sign up for a credit monitoring service so you can prevent this in the future. It's either that or a divorce if you really don't want to pay the money.

                          PS Do not hire a settlement lawyer, it will just cost you more money. These are things you can do yourself if you are smart about it. We're here to help you free of charge.
                          Last edited by boosami; 03-30-2009, 07:19 AM.


                            I've avoided responding to this thread until I could put my thoughts in a coherent paragraph.

                            I think the regulars here know how I feel about marital assets. I think everything is joint from day one. I don't believe in "my money" and "her money". I also don't believe in "my debt" and "her debt". It all needs to be counted together because it all effects both partners, as we can clearly see here.

                            So to the OP I'd say stop considering this to be your wife's debt. It is household debt regardless of which of you actually spent the money. You should pay it as required by the terms of the credit card on which it was charged. The more time you waste trying to get out of paying it, the more they tack on interest and late charges and increase the amount owed. Pay it and be done with it so that you both can move on with your lives.

                            * Despite the high cost of living, it remains very popular.
                            * Why should I pay for my daughter's education when she already knows everything?
                            * There are no shortcuts to anywhere worth going.


                              Originally posted by beta decay View Post
                              I am willing to pay some money to get rid of this debt, but I'm certainly not going to pay the original amount since Capital One knew ahead of time that she was a high risk, and since the garbage she bought didn't benefit me.
                              You don't get to decide how much of a bill to pay. If $5,000 was charged, $5,000 needs to be repaid. It doesn't matter how the money was spent or whether or not you benefitted from the purchases. My wife charges a lot of things that I get no benefit from. I still pay the bill when it comes each month. That's called marriage.

                              * Despite the high cost of living, it remains very popular.
                              * Why should I pay for my daughter's education when she already knows everything?
                              * There are no shortcuts to anywhere worth going.