Liability for Martial Debts and Disputes After Divorce

Hossein Berenji, Sep 25, 2018

In 2015 and 2016, singer Mary J. Blige and her then-husband rented a mansion in Beverly Hills. The landlord claims that the singer and her husband abandoned the property, left it in a state of disrepair, and failed to pay rent for at least 4 months. Attorneys for the landlord are currently seeking nearly $60,000 plus the cost of attorney fees from the now-divorced singing sensation.

Liability After Divorce

After 12 years of marriage, Mary J. Blige filed for divorce from her husband in 2016. Nearly two years later, the couple was able to finalize the terms of their high net-worth split. Even though the couple is now divorced, they are still facing legal issues from when they were together. Divorce doesn’t absolve either spouse from legal obligations or debts that may date back to their married years.

Who is liable for debts assumed when they were married? The answer depends. If both Blige and her husband were named on the mansion’s lease agreement, the debt will likely fall to both of them. The landlord company doesn’t care from which spouse it recovers the back rent and damage-related fees. The landlord can seek to recover compensation from both spouses together, or one spouse individually.

Blige has gone on record to indicate she was the household’s primary earner. Her ex-husband has argued that he needs spousal support because he can’t find a job. This is probably why the landlord decided to file the lawsuit against Blige individually, rather than against her and her ex.

Can One Spouse Seek Reimbursement From the Other?

Mary J. Blige has been sued for nearly $60,000 relating to a lease dispute dating back to 2016. Even though Blige was the only one named in the lawsuit, she and her husband were both involved in the matter as a married couple. Is it fair that Blige can be held individually responsible for debt that is really owned by both she and her ex? Can Blige seek to recover some of the money she pays if she settles the lawsuit?

The answer will really depend on the specific circumstances of Blige’s specific case. In most situations, spouses are jointly and severally liable for debts that are accrued during a marriage. This means that it is entirely possible for Blige to be held fully accountable for the back rent, property damage, and attorney fees. However, Blige could possibly turn around and file a lawsuit against her ex-husband to recover his fair share. Since debts assumed in marriage are generally considered to be community property in California, each spouse shares an equal obligation to satisfy those burdens.

Blige Took Responsibility for All Debts

The specific details of the Blige-Isaacs divorce are private. However, reports indicate that Blige stated that she was (a) the sole breadwinner and (b) responsible for all marital debts. Why would a spouse want to take responsibility for debts? California is a community property state. Unless there’s a prenup that says otherwise, each spouse is entitled to half of all property. This includes assets and debts.  Debts can be used offset assets. By assuming the debts, Blige was likely able to assume ownership of more than 50 percent of the marital property.

Assuming responsibility for all marital debts could be relevant if Blige wants to recover money from her ex-husband for this recent legal dispute. On one hand, she stated that all debts were hers. On the other hand, the statement was likely only in regard to debts that were currently known and identified. A court may find that the debt relating to the Beverly Hills mansion was allocated to Blige, and is, therefore, her sole responsibility.


Getting divorced can be complicated. It’s important to have an experienced attorney by your side. Contact our Beverly Hills divorce lawyers today for immediate assistance.