Divorce 101: What Happens to Your Debt?

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If you are currently going through, or are planning on getting divorced, you’re probably wondering what will happen to you and your spouse’s debt. It’s very common for married folks to combine their finances.

They usually have joint savings accounts, credit cards, loan accounts, and buy real estate together, which could make it difficult to figure out just what will happen to all that joint debt when they divorce.

Fortunately, with some research and help from your divorce attorney, you can determine the ins and outs of the divorce and debt responsibility.

How Family Courts Address Debt

When you file for a divorce, your first thought probably went along the lines of what will happen to your assets. But debts are also crucial because they’re a significant determinant of you and your spouse’s net worth.

Review all financial statements and bills to obtain an accurate view of your current economic standing. Both you and your spouse must be able to access this pertinent information and get involved in crucial money matters.

The court will distribute all your assets and debts. It will also indicate which spouse should pay for specific bills while diving money and property. In general, the court will aim to distribute debts and assets equally or use them to balance each other. For instance, a spouse who was awarded more property might likewise be allocated more debt.

It’s also crucial to note that the laws for asset and debt distribution differ from one state to another. Some states consider the debts and assets each spouse brought to their married life. For instance, every single thing in a marriage is considered equally owned in states that follow community property rules. But if there’s a prenuptial agreement, this will affect how the court will handle the divorce settlement.

What an Ex-Spouse Does NOT Pay


cases, individuals can’t or don’t pay the debts assigned to them in the divorce settlement. When this occurs, the creditors usually reach out to the spouse who accrued the debt, even if both parties were originally responsible for the debt. While this might seem unfair, this is done to uphold the creditor’s rights.

So what can you do if your ex-spouse doesn’t pay and a creditor is coming after you? The most ideal way to go about this is to request that the court enforce the divorce settlement. Your ex-spouse should then appear in court and explain why they’re not following the agreement. They may likewise be fined or spend some time in jail.

If you have the means to pay the debt, do so, and keep a record of the payment. You should then notify the court and ask for help to get your ex to reimburse you.

What About Bankruptcy?

In some instances, the financial strain brought about by bankruptcy leads to divorce. In other cases, the resulting settlement in divorce causes one of both spouses to be incapable of paying off their assigned debt, leading to bankruptcy.

In either case, being bankrupt doesn’t halt child support or spousal support payments. While bankruptcy court can fend off other creditors, bankruptcy judgments will always prioritize court-order support maintenance.

Try to Aim For a Zero-Debt Divorce

Debt adds unnecessary complexity to any divorce and could make the process harder for all parties involved. So if possible, try to pay off your debts before the divorce or while going through it.

Otherwise, take a long hard look at both your finances to ensure that the court will deal with all your debts and assets appropriately. You and your soon-to-be ex-spouse will emerge better from the divorce if everything goes well.

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