What happens to our joint debts if we divorce? 20 Answers as of June 26, 2013

Most of our joint accounts have compiled some debt. We were going to take care of this together, but we ended up disagreeing on a lot of things and so we are getting a divorce. I dont want to be responsible for the debt as most of the payments were made by my spouse and I was expected to take care of it. I do not have the financial means of taking care of these bills What can I do?

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Law Office of Karen A. Clark, L.L.C.
Law Office of Karen A. Clark, L.L.C. | Karen A. Clark
You should discuss this matter with an attorney, and you may want to seek the assistance of a certified divorce financial analyst to determine the potential extent your you individual debt. If you and your spouse have separated, you want to notify creditors so that any debt incurred after separation will be each individual's responsibility. After you determine the extent of your portion of the debt, I would suggest contacting your creditors about a payment plan.
Answer Applies to: Washington
Replied: 9/2/2011
Michael Rose Attorney at Law
Michael Rose Attorney at Law | Michael Rose
Debts can be divided or they can be traded for other assets.
Answer Applies to: California
Replied: 8/29/2011
Beresford Booth PLLC
Beresford Booth PLLC | S. Scott Burkhalter
The court will make a fair and equitable division of your assets and liabilities.
Answer Applies to: Washington
Replied: 8/24/2011
Bagwell Holt Smith Jones & Crowson, P.A.
Bagwell Holt Smith Jones & Crowson, P.A. | John G. Miskey IV
Draft and sign a Separation Agreement and Property Settlement which details who is responsible for which debt and how the property will be divided. Contact an attorney. Our firm offers legal consultations (via office/phone/skype) throughout NC for a fee of $75.
Answer Applies to: North Carolina
Replied: 8/24/2011
Glenn E. Tanner
Glenn E. Tanner | Glenn E. Tanner
Ask the court to divide them fairly and equitably, which from your perspective means your husband pays them.
Answer Applies to: Washington
Replied: 6/26/2013
    Dunnings Law Firm
    Dunnings Law Firm | Steven Dunnings
    Any debt incurred during the marriage is considered the marital debt of both parties regardless of who generated the debt. That is to be divided just as any marital assets. You might want to look into filing jointly for bankruptcy.
    Answer Applies to: Michigan
    Replied: 8/23/2011
    Reeves Law Firm, P.C.
    Reeves Law Firm, P.C. | Roy L. Reeves
    Community property is to assets, not debts. Debts are contractual in nature - so the question is who incurred the debt and for what purpose. If the debt supported the community, then the community gained the benefit and owes the debt which is shared. If the debt is in your name, the bank can sue you, not your spouse for breach of contract if it is not paid and vice versa - so keep that caveat in mind. Another default rule is that a party taking an asset with a debt attached gets the debt attached to that asset.
    Answer Applies to: Texas
    Replied: 8/23/2011
    Horizons Law Group, LLC
    Horizons Law Group, LLC | Michelle B. Fitzgerald
    Unfortunately, the creditors can come after either of you for the debt. They will not care who agreed to pay the debt in the divorce. If that person stops paying, they can come after the other joint holder. It is VERY important with joint debt to call the creditors to remove your name or the other spouses name if you keep the debt, AND have any debt that was joint, rolled over into that spouse's sole name. Otherwise, 5 years later you could be pursued for a marital debt that is no longer being paid. You can't be pursued for debt that was built up after the date of divorce, so long as you called the creditor or wrote a letter (best idea) to inform them of the divorce and to remove your name.
    Answer Applies to: Wisconsin
    Replied: 8/23/2011
    Goolsby Law Office
    Goolsby Law Office | Richard Goolsby
    We recommend you hire a divorce lawyer and discuss all your rights, including a right to an equitable division of property and debt. Good luck.
    Answer Applies to: Georgia
    Replied: 8/23/2011
    Law Office of Roianne H. Conner
    Law Office of Roianne H. Conner | Roianne Houlton Conner
    During the divorce proceedings you can request an equal division of the debt.
    Answer Applies to: Alabama
    Replied: 8/23/2011
    Correia-Champa & Mailhot
    Correia-Champa & Mailhot | Susan Correia Champa
    Generally debt is split 50/50 in a divorce if it is considered marital debt. However, several other factors can have an affect on debt, such as the parties respective incomes, contribution to the marriage, was the debt incurred actually marital debt, to name a few. I suggest you contact an attorney to discuss your specific rights.
    Answer Applies to: Massachusetts
    Replied: 8/23/2011
    Michael D. Fluke, P.A.
    Michael D. Fluke, P.A. | Michael D. Fluke
    Marital debts are typically distributed in a divorce on an equal basis after being offset by the assets. If your spouse is the primary earner in the relationship, you may be entitled to some form of spousal support which can help you take care of your portion of the debt. I suggest you consult an experienced Family Law attorney to discuss your case in greater detail and learn all of your rights and options. Good luck.
    Answer Applies to: Florida
    Replied: 8/23/2011
    Rhonda R. Werner Schultz, PL
    Rhonda R. Werner Schultz, PL | Rhonda R. Werner Schultz
    In Florida, debts incurred during the marriage by either party, whether joint or in either person's name, are presumed marital. This means they will be divided equally in a divorce so that each of you is responsible for one-half of the total amount owed. How the debts are divided is determined by agreement or by the court. Debts are also part of the property division, which equally divides marital property. It is a good idea to make a list of all your assets: cars, furniture and furnishings, tools, jewelry, real estate, bank accounts, retirement accounts, etc. and put items you are keeping in your column and items your spouse is keeping in his or her column. Then do a list of the debts and place different debts in each person's column. The goal is that each of you receives 50%. If one person has a $10,000 retirement account and $5,000 in debt in his or her column and the other person has $2,000 in furniture in their column and $5,000 in debt, the first person would have to either take on more debt or give more assets to the second person to equal out the division. You should always consult an attorney in your area regarding your situation and the likely outcome based on your circumstances.
    Answer Applies to: Wisconsin
    Replied: 8/23/2011
    Law Offices of Paul A. Eads, A.P.C.
    Law Offices of Paul A. Eads, A.P.C. | Paul A. Eads
    Debt is split. You may be entitled to reimbursement for post-separation payments.
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 8/23/2011
    Michael Apicella
    Michael Apicella | Apicella Law and Mediation
    It would be advisable to contact a local family law lawyer and discuss all the debts, such as when they were incurred, for what purpose, the ability to pay of each party, among other issues that will be determinative of who should pay and how much. Good luck.
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 8/23/2011
    Petit & Dommershausen SC
    Petit & Dommershausen SC | Tajara Dommershausen
    They usually get split.
    Answer Applies to: Wisconsin
    Replied: 8/22/2011
    Law Office of L. Paul Zahn
    Law Office of L. Paul Zahn | Paul Zahn
    Each party is responsible for one-half of any community debts. If you are unable to pay these debts, bankruptcy may be an option for you.
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 8/31/2011
    John E. Kirchner, Attorney at Law
    John E. Kirchner, Attorney at Law | John Kirchner
    All marital debts must be allocated fairly and consistent with all relevant financial information. The name on the account doesn't define a debt as marital or separate. If you and your spouse cannot agree on how to allocate responsibility, a judge will do that for you. Keep in mind that no matter what you agree to or what a judge says, the divorce proceeding is not binding on the creditor. That means even if your husband is responsible for a joint account, if he fails to pay it the creditor can still come after you for payment.
    Answer Applies to: Colorado
    Replied: 8/22/2011
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