What Do We Do About Debt in Our Divorce?

Often in a divorce the biggest issue is division of debts. Debt is treated very similarly to what happens to assets in a divorce; they get divided fairly. The Court typically look towards several factors in assessing debt, including in whose name is the debt, what was the debt incurred for, and what is the respective incomes of the parties. Often one party has the better credit so all the credit cards are in that person’s name, although the credit was used for family purposes. The Court can order a party to pay the debt of another party as part of the division of assets and debts in a divorce. So if the credit cards are in your name you can require your spouse to pay his/her share.

Creative solutions to debt problems may be the best way to resolve a divorce. I’ve had cases where we reach an agreement where both parties file bankruptcy together, then when the bankruptcy is discharged the divorce is finalized. As an attorney who practices bankruptcy law, I can help in an uncontested matter filing both the divorce and the bankruptcy. Often we pay off the debt with house equity, or, to be really clever, award one party more of a 401k then use that money to pay the debt.

Debt division in a divorce cannot be discharged (as to you). In other words, if the Separation Agreement requires your spouse to pay a credit card in your name and the spouse files bankruptcy, you can still force him to abide by the divorce decree.