Distributing Debt in Divorce Court

Distributing Debt in Divorce Court

When facing divorce, couples must inevitably face the hard facts that come with it. The most stressful of them all might just be deciding who owns what, then dividing that up. The assumption most likely made is that ownership refers to assets, including property and the like.  However, like it or not, one usually also owns debt. There are the classics: credit card debt, car payments, mortgages, taxes, medical bills, etc. Of course, equitable distribution of debt is no simple matter. Read further but remember it is essential to consult with an attorney well before wading into a divorce.

Types of Debt

Imagine there is such a thing as a debt recorder, like a tape recorder, only it records debt rather than sound. When you get divorced, an attorney must help you go over that tape in order to determine which debts were incurred before marriage and which were accrued during marriage. This should result in two types of debt: premarital debt and marital debt, respectively. Before distributing debt, you must identify it. The rule of thumb is always that whatever debt you bring to the table remains separate, while any debt incurred during marriage is assumed to be the responsibility of both parties.  There are of course exceptions, which you should discuss with your attorney.

Distributing Debt

Generally marital debt is divided equally, unless there are factors giving reason for a disproportionate split or the parties themselves agreed to a disproportionate split.  Sometimes this happens because one party is taking on more of the debt in exchange for receiving more of an asset.  Regardless, you should consult with a well-versed family law attorney to determine what debt should be divided equally or disproportionally.   

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