Wisconsin's Marital Property Law

​​​​​​General Information

​Wisconsin’s Marital Property law may be found at Wis. Stat. Ch.​ 766​.  There are many provisions of this law that may be relevant to creditors who offer or extend credit to Wisconsin residents. Following is a brief overview of several aspects of the marital property law. For a complete understanding of the law, it will be necessary to consult the above-referenced chapter.​

The Credit-Granting Decision

Wisconsin Statute s. 766.56 provides that, in evaluating the credit worthiness of a married person, the creditor must consider all marital property available under Wis. Stat. s. 766.55(2)(b) to satisfy the obligation. This means, for example, that a spouse who does not work outside the home may claim the non-applicant spouse’s income and assets, to the extent they fit the definition of marital property, in applying for credit. Any financial organization or other credit granting commercial institution that violates this section may be fined not more than $1,000 Wis. Stat. s. 766.56(4)(a).​

The Credit Application​

When a person applies for credit, a creditor may inquire into the applicant's marital status Wis. Stat. s. 766.56(2)(d) and may request any information concerning the applicant's spouse that may be requested about the applicant in accordance with Federal Regulation B, 12 CFR 1002.5(a)(2).

All credit applications, both open and closed end, governed by the Wisconsin Consumer Act must include a "marital agreement notice" pursuant to Wis. Stat. s. 766.56(2)(b)​. This does not apply to applications for renewals, extensions or modifications or the use of an open-end credit transaction.

The content of the notice must state that:

No provision of a marital property agreement {including a Statutory Individual Property Classification Agreement pursuant to Wis. Stat. s. 766.587​}, a unilateral statement under Wis. Stat. s. 766.59 or a court decree under Wis. Stat. s. 766.70 adversely affects the interest of the creditor unless the creditor, prior to the time the credit is granted, is furnished a copy of the agreement, statement or decree or has actual knowledge of the adverse provision when the obligation to the creditor is incurred.

This applies to written applications beginning January 1, 1986, as well as applications received prior to January 1, 1986, where credit is extended in 1986. Recording a marital property agreement or a unilateral statement under Wis. Stat s. 766.59 does not put a creditor on notice except as it may affect notice of an interest in real property. Failure to include the notice can result in a penalty of $25 for each applicant spouse unless the failure was unintentional and resulted from a bona fide error. However, to establish a bona fide error, the creditor must show that it had adopted a set of procedures that, if followed, would have avoided the error.​

Signature Requirements

The applicant spouse must sign the writing evidencing the consumer credit transaction and must receive a copy of the document that evidences the customer’s obligation to pay before any payment is due. The non-applicant spouse need not sign the writing and need not receive a copy of the document evidencing the applicant’s obligation to pay unless the non-applicant spouse signed that writing or a separate guarantee. But note, providing a copy of the contract to the non-applicant spouse is one way to give notice of the extension of consumer credit.

Wis. Stat. s.​ 766.56(3)(b) requires that a written notice be sent to the non-applicant spouse of the extension of closed-end credit granted or open-end credit accounts established after January 1, 1986. This has been termed the "tattletale" notice. This notice must be sent before any payment is due and addressed to the non-applicant spouse. The notice requirement may be satisfied by providing:

  • a copy of the document evidencing the application to pay;

  • a copy of the credit disclosures given to the applicant; or

  • a brief description of the nature of the credit extended.

This notice is not required if the non-applicant spouse has either actual knowledge of the credit or waives notice in writing. The notice does not apply to renewals, extensions, or modifications of credit plans. The penalty for failure to comply is $25 to the non-applicant spouse.

Marital Property Laws (Continued)

Contact Us

Phone:  (608) 264-7969
Toll-Free:  (800) 452-3328 (in Wisconsin)
Fax:  (608) 264-7968
​​​E-Mail:  ConsumerAct@dfi.wisconsin.gov