by Wayne

My wife and I were separated as of June 8, 2009 (as stated in our legal papers) and are in the middle of a divorce. She was involved in a car accident on June 8th, 2009... a truck side swiped her passenger side as she waited at a stop light. The van was several years old with over 100k miles on it but we had current gap insurance. Due to the damage the van was totaled and we are now informed that the gap insuranace will not cover the difference between what the blue book was and the balance owed.

There is a $1,288.00 balance that has been turned over to a collection agency. They keep calling me for the money even though it was her accident. They are now saying I have until the end of Feb. 2010 to pay this in full. Am I fully responsible for this balance even though we were seperated for 1 day?

Can the collection agency garnish my wages for the entire amount due? She's employed too! Worst case scenerio I should only be responsible for half. Also, she was not injured and then later claimed she was and is suppose to receive a settlement. Can this outstanding balance be liened against her settlement amount?

Why should I get stuck with any of this debt and she gets all the money for a settlement claim?
Thank you for our help. Will wait for your answer. Also we live in Calif. if that makes a difference.

Signed, frustrated and just want a clean divorce, quick!


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Feb 16, 2010
collection on wife's debt
by: Gerri

I am afraid I don't have an easy answer for you Wayne. You live in a community property state, and generally debts incurred during your marriage are considered community property. I don't know that your separation would change that, but I am not an attorney so I can't say for certain.

In addition, I assume you were co-owner of the vehicle and also on the insurance policy, correct? I would imagine that would be a factor as well.

However, the collection agency must still follow both the federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act and California's Rosenthal Act in collecting from you. They cannot make any illegal statements.

For example, before the collector can garnish your wages, it must first take you to court and win a judgment against you. If they've made statements indicating that they will garnish your wages, those statements may be illegal as they have not won a court judgment yet.

You'll find more information on your rights under both state and federal law in the California edition of our ebook. In addition, you may want to contact the coauthor of the California edition of our ebook Debt Collection Answers, attorney Robert Brennan, for help with your specific questions about dealing with this debt. You'll find his contact information at

I hope you can put this behind you and move on with your life. Please do come back and tell us what he says!

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