Wife A and Wife B were lawfully married six years ago. At that time, Wife A worked as a clerk in a local grocery store, earning $20,000 per year. Wife B worked as a receptionist in a hair salon and earned $15,000 annually. The two could make ends meet, although barely, and saving money was impossible. The two combined their income into a joint checking account, from which they paid their usual expenses.
Two years ago, Wife B started spending money more liberally than in times past, charging many purchases to a credit card. Namely, she bought a few kitchen appliances, most notably a microwave and blender, which she and Wife A had never before owned together. Wife A was aware of these purchases. However, Wife B made a few other purchases unbeknownst to Wife A, including a $1,000 gold necklace. Wife B hid this purchase from Wife A, because Wife B had begun a romantic affair with a coworker, to whom she gave the necklace as a gift.
As the credit card bills piled up, Wife B realized that she could not pay them. Now desperate for money, she began shoplifting clothes from the local mall and then selling those purloined goods on eBay. She did this on weekends, when she was off from work.
On one weekend about six weeks later, Wife B went to the mall and noticed that the mall had taken more robust measures than before to guard against shoplifting. These included deploying more security guards to patrol the stores. Unnerved, Wife B returned home without stealing any clothing.
When Wife B arrived home, Wife A confronted her with a letter from Wife A’s cousin. The cousin was the executor of the estate of Wife A’s aunt. The letter informed Wife A that the aunt had left Wife A $15,000 in her will.
This windfall so excited Wife A that she went online to Wife B’s credit card account, to which she had the password. She meant to surprise Wife B by paying off the credit-card debt for the kitchen appliances. But Wife A stopped cold when she saw the charge for the gold necklace and correctly guessed that Wife B bought the necklace for a girlfriend.
Wife B insisted that she had broken things off with the girlfriend, apologizing profusely. She also admitted her desperate financial situation and confessed that she had begun paying off the credit card bill by shoplifting clothing from the mall. She had managed to gain about $500 by shoplifting.
Furious, Wife A demanded that Wife B move out of their shared apartment while she decided what to do. Wife B moved in with friends. She and Wife A have been separated for about two months, but neither wife has yet sought a divorce. In that time, the credit card company sold Wife B’s account to a collections agency, which has sent a notice to Wife A stating that she is liable for Wife B’s past-due account. Additionally, local police came to the shared apartment. The police told Wife A that they would arrest Wife B for the shoplifting, and that Wife A would be called to testify against Wife B.
- Will the law require Wife A to pay for any of Wife B’s credit-card purchases, and if so, from which sources of funds may the credit card company seek payment? Explain.
- If Wife B is charged with theft, will Wife A have to testify regarding Wife B’s confession to shoplifting? Explain.