Unfortunately, during a marriage, one or both of the spouses may incur significant medical debt. A main concern is whether one spouse will ultimately have to pay the medical bills of the other. The answer to this complicated question is nowhere near straight-forward.
Many people are under the impression that they will not have to pay for their spouse’s medical bills by simply refusing to sign any documents that would make them a responsible party to the medical bills; however, this is not a complete shield in every case. In essence, you may not have to directly pay for your spouse’s medical bills, but you can still be affected by them.
For instance, if the medical bill was paid with a credit card that is joint or that you co-signed for, the credit card company would not care that you did not sign off as being a responsible party. The credit card company will most likely hold you and the spouse incurring the medical bills jointly liable for the debt.
If your spouse should die, pursuant to the laws of Florida involving estates, you as a surviving spouse would not be held responsible for the medical debt incurred by your deceased spouse; this medical debt would be paid from the deceased spouse’s estate. However, this means that if your estates are combined, the medical debt is still, in reality, being paid in some manner by you.
If you and your spouse decide to divorce, the medical debt may be in the other spouse’s name, but because it was accrued during the marriage, it would be considered marital debt. Thus, this medical debt would be included in the distribution of all the assets and debts accrued during the marriage Further, although this medical debt may be in one spouse’s name and on that spouse’s side of the marriage’s asset and debt “balance sheet,” it would affect the overall division of the assets and debts (i.e., there would have to be a balance of assets and debts to each person so that the two parties are essentially walking away from the marriage in fairly equal positions).
One spouse in a marriage may believe that they will not have to be responsible for medical debts incurred by the other spouse. By refusing to be made a responsible party to the other spouse’s medical debts, at first glance, this may hold true. Further, in certain circumstances, a spouse may not be held directly responsible for the other spouse’s medical bills. However, based on the discussion above, in actuality, your spouse’s medical bills will ultimately affect you in some manner.