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Dividing Debts in Divorce

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Dividing Debts in Divorce

During a divorce, you will have to sort out your financial affairs and determine not only what assets belong to whom, but also what debts belong to which partner.

The first step in dividing debt is to find out how much debt you and your partner have accumulated to this point. Finding how much debt you have between the two of you can be achieved by ordering credit reports from the three major credit reporting agencies: Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. It is also important that you stop anymore debt from accumulating. If you are trying to sort out who owes what, it makes it more difficult if the list is ever-growing.

The division of debt during marriage also depends on whether the spouses live in a community property state or an equitable distribution state. In a community property state, both spouses are responsible for debt that was incurred during marriage even if it is the debt of one spouse only. In an equitable distribution state, the spouse that incurred the debt and the debt only has his or her name on it would be responsible for paying for the debt upon divorce.

How to Distribute Debts between Partners

Next you will want to look at the credit reports to see how much debt is considered separate debt and how much is shared debt. Obviously, the debt that solely belongs to one partner is the responsibility of that partner.However, sorting out the shared debt can be a bit more complex. There are several options divorcing partners have in order to distribute the shared debt: 

  • You and your partner can decide to just pay off the debt with joint assets before you proceed with getting a divorce. This saves the trouble of trying to figure out who will get which debts.
  • One partner could decide to take on a greater share of the joint debts in exchange for receiving a greater share of the joint assets. While the other partner may get less of the assets, they gain by having less debts to pay off in their new life.
  • You and your partner could decide to evenly split the shared debt. Note: in the eyes or your creditors, this makes you both wholly responsible for paying off your debts.

How Do Courts Divide Debt Upon Divorce?

As a part of the divorce judgment, the court will divide the couple’s debts along with any assets. The courts will determine which spouse is liable for paying which debt. Most of the time, the community debt between both spouses is divided equally and sometimes courts balance out the debts in order to divide the property and assets equally.

If a spouse pays for a debt that the other spouse is responsible for, the spouse that paid for the debt can petition the court and ask to be reimbursed for the amount paid.

Should I Consult a Divorce Attorney?

It would be very wise for you to consult a divorce attorney while going through divorce proceedings. Your divorce attorney will be able to represent your interests in a professional manner and be able to guide you through the legal process of divorce.

Photo of page author Kourosh Akhbari

, LegalMatch Legal Writer

Last Modified: 09-08-2014 03:41 PM PDT

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