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.

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