Community Debt Law and Legal Definition

Community debt is debt incurred during a marriage by a spouse which generally benefits the marriage and both spouses may be liable to pay. In a community property state, a debt incurred for the common interest of the spouses or for the interest of the other spouse is a community debt. A community debt can be paid from the community property and from the separate property of the spouse who incurred the debt. If both spouses received a benefit from the debt, it can be collected from the separate property of both spouses as well as the community property.

A separate debt of a spouse can be satisfied from that spouse's separate property and the community property. Debts owed by one party prior to the marriage remain a separate debt of that party and do not become transformed into a community debt just because the parties got married. If a spouse "wastes" comunity assets, such as through gambling, a court may consider that wasted amount in deciding the division of debts and assets in a divorce. However, a gambling debt might be considered a community debt if the other souse consented to the spouse incurring the debt or received benefits from gambling winnings.