What is your divorce and debt responsibility when a marriage comes to an end? If you are preparing for divorce or going through one right now, it’s important to be proactive in minimizing the impact this separation will have on your personal finances.
Each situation is unique, which is why there isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution for managing divorce and debt responsibility. Instead, it’s best to consider your personal situation, then talk to financial experts if you need more support navigating the road ahead.
Debt Responsibility After Divorce
One of the most common questions asked during the divorce process is whether you will be responsible for your spouse’s debt. The answer to this question varies depending on the state where you live and the structure of your debt accounts.
For example, common law property states allow individuals to hold debt that doesn’t impact their spouse. If loans are in your ex-spouse’s name at the time of divorce, then you don’t need to carry the responsibility of paying those balances in full. Under common law, the court will assign debt responsibility to the person who incurred the credit card or loan.
Are the Debts in Your Name?
Regardless of your agreement in the marriage, the original loan or credit card agreement is the final say in who has to pay it back. When it comes to divorce and debt responsibility, the loan agreement even supersedes a divorce decree.
You might think you are off the hook if an ex-spouse is ordered to make payments on a joint account. But since your name is on the account, it means that your credit will be affected if that person doesn’t stay current with the payments.
Working Out Debt Responsibility in Divorce
To protect your personal finances, it’s important that you work out the details of the debt as soon as possible. It’s best for the debt to be solely in the name of the person who is responsible – and this step should happen before the finalization of the divorce.
Various options should be considered for divorce and debt responsibility. If a spouse will be paying the balance on a shared credit card, then a simple solution is for that person to transfer the credit card balance or consolidate the balances into an individual loan.
On the other hand, major loans require a bit more attention when you’re divorcing. When a home or car loan is in the name of both spouses, then it is necessary to complete a refinance so the new loan is in the name of the person keeping the asset.
Even though it takes a little work to sort through the financial details, it is an important step to protect your credit score when it comes to divorce and debt responsibility.