Divorce-Related Property Division Discussions Must Include Marital Debts
August 19, 2015
When most people think about divorcing couples disagreeing on a property division settlement, they envision images of lists of cars, homes, photo albums or stock portfolios. Something not typically thought of – but, nevertheless, a huge part of any discussion about dividing marital assets – is marital debt.
A marriage does not just involve two hearts who come together; it involves bringing together two complete lives filled with memories, belongings and, yes, debts. Most pre-marital debts involved by a single party will remain separate upon divorce. Joint debts, however – even those incurred by the parties before they were married – are subject to division and inclusion in a property division settlement. Importantly, judges have a great deal of discretion when establishing a fair and equitable division of marital debt.
Regardless of how the debt is divided or balanced against a property award, if you are involved in a divorce – or anticipate that you will be in the future – think about the following:
Even if your spouse is awarded a portion of your joint marital debt, if he or she is unable to pay, the creditor could bring a legal action against you to recover the balance due; since both of you agreed to the terms of the credit extended to you, you are both legally responsible for ensuring it is paid
Joint credit cards or lines of credit should be closed as soon as divorce becomes a certainty to ensure that your spouse cannot run up a big balance in the interim
If you have only had joint accounts with your spouse during the marriage, consider applying for solo accounts prior to the divorce so you can start building your own credit record
Try negotiating with creditors for a lower interest rate or payment on those debts you are assigned as part of the divorce decree
If you are in the midst of a divorce and want to learn more about the methodology and practice of dividing marital debt and assets, speak with an experienced New York family law attorney today.