Whether you are facing a divorce, learn of a partner’s spending habits or are considering how marrying someone with credit card debt may affect your finances, you want to know how Maryland considers debt for couples.

As the State Law Library explains, generally, you are able to avoid responsibility for your partner’s debt, but understanding how Maryland considers property for partners and spouses can help you avoid a stressful situation.

Joint and individual property

In short, you are most likely not responsible for your partner’s debt unless you entered into the agreement together. Maryland recognizes your individual credit card accounts as belonging to each of you individually–even if you are married when you open them. But if you open a joint account, you are both liable for any and all debts.

Similarly, other agreements you sign could muddle your liability.

Many states are community property states, meaning that all property you acquire during marriage, with a few exceptions, belongs to both of you equally. Maryland does not subscribe to this legal doctrine, and courts will consider a variety of factors when separating property in a divorce or separation.

If your partner acquired the debt before or after your relationship, you should be safe from creditors.

If your partner passes away, it is possible that creditors will go after his or her estate for payment. This may sometimes affect what you are able to inherit, but these creditors should not be able to come after you for payment so long as the debt was individual.

Debt dispute

If creditors are coming after you for a debt your partner created, you will first want to examine the agreement to ensure that you did not sign onto the account or otherwise claim responsibility for it.

In some cases, you may be able to claim that your partner or another party used your name fraudulently. Although it may take longer to clear your name, claiming fraud may be your best option in some cases.