A spouse is liable for the other spouse’s debts incurred for the “necessaries of life” before separation, but only for debts incurred for the “common necessaries of life” after separation and before divorce; the former includes only the basics of food, clothing, and shelter, whereas the latter is a broader category that takes into account the circumstances of the particular marriage such as the spouses’ accustomed standard of living. Fam. Code 914 provides that a spouse (and hence his or her separate property) is liable for the other spouse’s debts incurred for the “necessaries of life” before separation, but only for debts incurred for the “common necessaries of life” after separation and before divorce. This decision explains the difference. “Common necessaries of life” are the things all families need (e.g., food, clothing, & shelter). “Necessaries of life” is a broader category governed by the circumstances of the particular marriage, as determined by the “station in life” test which looks to the marital standard and mode of living and what persons of that economic and social position would deem necessary. Here, the wife was a lawyer who used a computer in her law practice, income from which enhanced the marital community property. The trial court did not err in holding that the computer lease was a debt for a necessary of life, and so husband was liable for it because the lease had been entered into before separation.
California Court of Appeal, Third District (Duarte, J.); August 30, 2017; 2017 WL 3725649