Do I have to pay for the medical bills of my spouse in Virginia?

Edrie Pfeiffer
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Edrie Pfeiffer, Bankruptcy & Divorce Attorney

There’s an old adage in marriage that goes: what’s mine is yours and what’s yours is mine. Well that is not always the case. In Virginia, a spouse is not normally liable for his or her spouse’s individual debt and other liabilities simply by virtue of the marriage. However, Virginia has a law, which makes a spouse liable for necessary living expenses like food, shelter, and medical care.

So exactly what medical care of my spouse can I be liable for?  According to Virginia law, you are automatically liable for emergency medical care for your spouse, regardless of whether you signed a single document with the hospital or not.

The statute states:

"Each spouse shall be jointly and severally liable for all emergency medical care furnished to the other spouse by a physician licensed to practice medicine in the Commonwealth or by a hospital located in the Commonwealth, including all follow-up inpatient care provided during the initial emergency admission to any such hospital, which is furnished while the spouses are living together. For the purposes of this section, emergency medical care shall mean any care the physician or other health care professional deems necessary to preserve the patient’s life or health and which, if not rendered timely, can be reasonably anticipated to adversely affect the patient’s recovery or imperil his life or health."

In simpler terms, the statute makes either spouse responsible for the entire debt when the medical care is given by a medical provider and the medical provider thinks the medical care is necessary for your spouse’s life or health.

What if you and your spouse are living separate and apart? While the law does say for care given while the spouses are living together, the effect of living separate and apart on the spouse liability is unclear. Ultimately, the only protection a spouse can have against another spouse’s emergency medical debt is divorce.  

If you have collection agencies or medical providers contacting you about medical bills for your spouse, you can get relief through bankruptcy. Contact Hampton Roads Legal Services today at 757-320-210 for a free consultation on how you can take charge of your finances..

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