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All community property is liable for the debts of a spouse. (California Family Code 910) This is true despite who has management and control of the assets at issue. The separate property of a spouse is liable for all the owner’s spouse’s debt. (Family Code 913(a)). There are no exceptions to this rule.

Necessaries doctrine: One spouse’s separate property is liable for debts incurred for necessaries of life while the spouses are living together. If the spouses are living apart the liability goes only to credit purchases of common necessaries. Common necessaries are items necessary to sustain life. (California Family Code 914). If a third-party contracts for the necessaries, the spouse’s separate property will still be liable. If the couple has separated by a formal agreement and there is no liability for support then the necessaries doctrine does not apply (California Family Code 4302). Necessaries are determined by the station in life of the married couple. A maid or servant might be a necessary. If there are community assets available and a creditor takes separate property under the necessaries doctrine the separate owning spouse can get reimbursement from the community assets. (California Family Code 914(b)).

Pre-marriage: If ...

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