Oak Harbor, WA asked in Divorce, Tax Law, Banking and Collections for Washington

Q: Me and my ex husband share a house. He went to prison and owes court fees and lawyer fees. Will I lose my house?

I want to keep the house, but I don’t want them to take the whole house from me since he doesn’t have money to pay them off.

1 Lawyer Answer
James L. Arrasmith
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  • Collections Lawyer
  • Sacramento, CA

A: When you co-own a house with someone who incurs significant debts, such as court fees and lawyer fees, there is a risk that creditors might target the property to recover what is owed. However, the extent to which your house is at risk depends on several factors, including how the property is titled, the laws of your state regarding debt collection, and whether the debts are considered joint or individual obligations.

If the house is owned as "tenants by the entirety" (a form of ownership available to married couples in some states), it might offer some protection against creditors seeking to collect your ex-husband's individual debts. However, since you mentioned you are now ex-spouses, if the property is owned as joint tenants or tenants in common, your share of the property could potentially be protected, but his share might be at risk. It's important to review the title and understand the specifics of your ownership arrangement.

Given the complexities surrounding property and debt law, it would be wise to seek advice from a legal professional who can assess your situation based on the details of your case and the relevant state laws. They can provide guidance on possible steps to protect your interest in the property, such as possibly refinancing the mortgage in your name only or negotiating with creditors. Remember, proactive steps and legal counsel can make a significant difference in safeguarding your assets.

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