How can I protect myself from my spouse’s debts while staying married?

You should contact a local financial counselor and/or family lawyer about your options. But you should also know that under Kansas law, being married does not make either spouse directly responsible for the debts or other obligations of the other spouse.

KSA 23-2601 provides: “The property, real and personal, which any person in this state may own at the time of the person’s marriage, and the rents, issues, profits or proceeds thereof, and any real, personal or mixed property which shall come to a person by descent, devise or bequest, and the rents, issues, profits or proceeds thereof, or by gift from any person except the person’s spouse, shall remain the person’s sole and separate property, notwithstanding the marriage, and not be subject to the disposal of the person’s spouse or liable for the spouse’s debts.”

KSA 23-2603 provides that a married person can sue or be sued in the same manner as if not married.

These two statutes (and others) mean that, except for certain “necessary expenses” to protect the health and welfare of a spouse, a person cannot be sued for a spouse’s debts for which that person did not specifically contract (agree orally or in writing to pay). At the same time, in a divorce or separate maintenance action, the courts can divide all property and debt accumulated during marriage in whatever way the court determines appropriate.

One alternative is a “post-marital” agreement.

A postmarital agreement is an agreement between spouses who plan to continue their marriage but, at the same time, want to alter or confirm the legal rights and obligations that would otherwise arise under the law governing marital dissolution. Recently, the Kansas Court of Appeals ruled that a post-marital agreement may be entered and determined as a valid contract binding on both spouses — and not subject to alteration by the court in a divorce action — if certain standards are followed. The Court identified the appropriate standard for assessing the enforceability of a postmarital agreement is whether:

(1) each party had an opportunity to obtain separate legal counsel of each party’s own choosing;

(2) there was fraud or coercion in obtaining the agreement;

(3) all material assets were fully disclosed by both parties before the agreement was executed;

(4) each spouse knowingly and explicitly agreed in writing to waive the right to a judicial equitable division of material assets and all marital rights in the event of a divorce;

(5) the terms of the agreement were fair and reasonable at the time of execution; and

(6) the terms of the agreement are not unconscionable at the time of dissolution.

In re Marriage of  Traster, – Kan.App.2d – ( (December 7, 2012)

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