Does a wife have the responsibility to pay off a debt that her husband created?

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Married couples in Japan are responsible for sharing expenses related to the marriage.  Specifically, if one spouse signs a contract with a third party regarding everyday household matters (such as a cleaning service) then the other spouse will also be a responsible party under this contract unless there is prior notice given that he or she will not assume any liability under the agreement. However, this sharing of costs for household necessities and daily expenses does not extend to liability incurred in other areas not related to the marriage.  For example, barring some special circumstance, a wife will not be held liable for her husband’s gambling debts.  In general, the same holds true for children or parents.

However, relatives can be held jointly and severally liable if they sign as a guarantor of the debt in the same way any other guarantor would.  Some spouses may worry that their partner may fraudulently sign their name (or stamp their inkan) on as guarantor on a contract without their permission so it is important to ensure that your personal signature or stamp cannot be used by others.

If you have any questions about the responsibility between relatives for a debt, please contact our office for a legal consultation.