During divorce proceedings, couples not only have to divide up their assets but they must also divide their debts. There are various types of debt that must be divided during divorce proceedings. Types of debt include:
If the debt was incurred during the course of the marriage, more likely than not the debt will be divided between both parties. For example, if the parties had a joint credit card and the husband was reckless and ran up his credit card bill creating a lot of debt, the wife would probably be responsible for paying one-half of the debt of the credit card. Even if the husband said that he would pay the entire debt, the wife is not free from the liability of the debt until the debt is paid. However, if the debt incurred was for illegal purposes including, but not limited to, illegal gambling, drugs, or to finance an affair, a court may order that the debt be repaid only by one party.
A divorce judgment that assigns responsibility for the payment of one debt to one party does not vitiate the underlying credit responsibility of both parties. For example, if a credit card is in both parties’ names and the court orders one party to pay the debt and the debt is not paid, the party not required to pay the debt still has the debt listed on their credit report. Experts advise that joint credit cards or accounts be closed if possible once the divorce process has begun. Either party that pays any money towards a joint debt should keep track of that amount for credit purposes, even if the other party was required to pay the debt.
The court has tremendous discretion in dividing debts if you live in a state that places all of the property acquired during the marriage together. Some states do not combine all of the property acquired during a marriage together and the courts may divide the debt equally or require one party to pay the entire debt. Courts attempt to be equitable in their division of property and debt in divorce actions.
It is important to check credit reports after a divorce to make sure that they do not include any debts that have been paid off or that are attributed to the opposite party. However, if a joint debt was incurred during the marriage both names may still appear on the report.
Copyright 2012 LexisNexis, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc.