Dividing Debt During Divorce
When a couple gets married, there’s a good chance that their finances already have, or will soon become, commingled to a certain degree. Whether this takes the form of purchasing a home together, opening a joint credit card account, taking out a car loan, or consolidating educational debt, taking these steps, while it may help solidify a relationship in the short term, can create complications in the event of divorce. Dividing responsibility for debts can be especially difficult, so if you and your spouse have decided to end your marriage and have significant debts, it is critical to speak with an experienced Fort Lauderdale property division attorney who can ensure that your interests are protected.
Under Florida law, if a couple is unable to reach an out-of-court agreement regarding how their assets and liabilities will be divided upon divorce, a court will step in and make the decision on their behalf. However, even in these cases, courts are required to abide by the state’s equitable distribution policy, under which a divorcing couple’s marital assets are divided equitably between the parties. This legal theory applies equally to assets and debts, which means that as long as a debt qualifies as marital property, responsibility for paying it off must be divided fairly between the spouses.
Generally, courts assume that an equal distribution of assets acquired during the marriage, regardless of who purchased or otherwise acquired the property, would be an equal division. This same rule applies to debts, which means that regardless of who actually incurred the debt, most couples will be required to share responsibility for paying it off if it was incurred during the marriage. It is also not uncommon, however, for courts to take other factors into consideration when determining who will be responsible for which portion of a debt, including:
- Both parties’ economic circumstances;
- Each party’s contribution to the incurring of liabilities;
- Whether one party intentionally wasted, depleted, or dissipated marital assets after the filing of the divorce petition; and
- Each party’s contribution to the family’s income.
If an analysis of these factors reveals that it would be unfair to saddle one party with an equal portion of a debt, then a court is within its rights to distribute responsibility for paying off the debt based on both parties’ incomes and expenses. For instance, those who have more funds at their disposal may end up taking on more of the marital debt.
Paying off Your Debt
It’s important to keep in mind that just because a court divides responsibility for paying off a joint debt, does not mean that the person whose name is technically on the account is off the hook for making payments. Instead, creditors can still come after the account holder for payment on an account even after a divorce court ordered his or her spouse to help pay off a debt. For this reason, couples who decide to get divorced should consider taking a few steps before filing, including paying off as much joint debt as possible, closing joint credit card accounts, and reorganizing debt.
Contact Our Legal Team Today
To speak with experienced Fort Lauderdale property division attorney Sandra Bonfiglio, P.A. about dividing your debt, please call 954-945-7591 today.