return to divorce faq

Generally, debts are divided using the same principles that govern property. They are treated much like property with a negative value. For instance, if the property received by one spouse was more valuable than the property of the other spouse, the Court might equalize the shares by making the party with the more valuable property responsible for a larger share of the marital debts.

The ordinary assumption is that the spouse that gets an item of property also gets the debts that go along with it. For example, if the wife gets the car, she usually pays the car loan.

Debts are often the worst problem in divorces involving people who do not have children. A divorce decree only affects husband and wife, NOT creditors. A divorce decree ordering a husband to pay a loan does NOT prevent the creditor from seeking repayment from the wife if the husband fails to pay it. The decree CAN give wife the right to sue husband for reimbursement if she has to pay.

Debts may also impair your ability to borrow if both you and your spouse have signed for a loan. Unless the lender is cooperative, both of you have a legal obligation to pay the loan. Even though the divorce decree states that your spouse is responsible for the loan, you may find it difficult to borrow for a house, for example, because you are already responsible for another mortgage. Fortunately, many mortgage companies will disregard a mortgage your ex-spouse is paying.

One spouse is normally not liable for the other’s debt(s). However, where the husband and wife are living together, they are jointly (and severally) liable for necessary medical services that have been furnished to either spouse, and necessary household articles and supplies furnished to and used by the family. And generally a spouse is liable if he or she signed on the debt or if a court orders a spouse to pay.

Unfortunately, large debts often have both names on them. There are usually only three solutions to the problem: (1) someone pays the debt, (2) the creditor agrees not to seek payment,  or (3) one or both parties file bankruptcy. Ask us about bankruptcy if debt problems are severe.

return to divorce faq

Disclaimers, Warranties, & Copyright