Will I Have to Take on My Ex’s Debt Following Our Divorce?

May 12, 2020

Financial matters are often a key aspect of divorces in Georgia. For some couples, finances are the reason the marriage is ending. One partner may have a gambling problem or a shopping addiction. They may even lie to their spouse about their savings or debt until the entire household is in financial ruin. In other cases, finances aren’t the reason for the divorce. However, dividing assets and debt following a divorce can be tricky.

Some individuals enter the marriage with debt or incur it during the course of the relationship. When the marriage ends, the other party may worry about whether they will have to pay their former partner’s debts. If you’re in this situation, your concerns are valid.

Whether your soon-to-be ex has thousands of dollars in student loans or ballooning credit card debt, it’s helpful to know how Georgia handles debt during a divorce. Generally, both individuals receive an equitable share of assets and liabilities. The courts will consider some debts to be marital while others are separate. Of course, they are many nuances involved so you should speak to a divorce attorney in Albany, GA.

Determining Who is Responsible for Debt Following a Divorce

Two types of debt usually have to be addressed during divorce proceedings in Georgia. One is joint debt that’s in both spouses’ names. The other is individual debt that one party incurred during the marriage. It is important to note that the creditor is not a party to the divorce. This means that this entity isn’t bound by the arrangement you and your spouse make. If you are mandated to repay a joint debt, your spouse may still be held accountable by the creditor if you default. Likewise, if your former partner is mandated to pay and they default, the lender may expect you to pay.

This is perhaps best illustrated by an example. Let’s say you and your spouse applied for a credit card together. Both of you would be responsible for the charges racked up during the marriage even if only one of you actually made purchases. You may agree to pay this debt or the court may order you to do so. If you don’t make the payment, the credit card company may sue your partner to recover the balance. Unless existing debt is refinanced into only one person’s name, this can happen with other monies owed jointly.

When the Debt Belongs to One Party

Debts are distributed in much the same way as assets. If you can come to a settlement agreement without involving the courts, that would be ideal. Otherwise, the court will look at when your partner incurred the debt. Even if the credit card was only in your spouse’s name, if the debt accumulated during your marriage, it may be divided between you. Debts from prior to the marriage usually remain separate.

However, each divorce is different. The courts will look at all the circumstances surrounding the debt. If you were unaware of the debt because your partner withheld their financial information, you may not have to help pay it off. However, if you knew they were racking up debt and you ignored it, you may have to repay some. Even student loans could become shared debt if your spouse accrued them during the marriage.

If you’re asked to pay some of your spouse’s debt, it’s important to note that it will be equitably divided. This means that contrary to what some people believe, everything won’t automatically be split in half. The court will make a decision based on what is considered fair. If your spouse earns more than you do or you can’t afford to contribute, the court will take this into account. The best way to ensure you’re treated fairly is to hire an experienced divorce lawyer in Albany.

Contact Joe Durham Jr. P.C. for Advice and Representation

If you’re thinking about getting a divorce, you need legal counsel. There are a number of important things which you have to decide on including the division of assets and debts. It’s crucial that you protect your interests and secure the best possible outcome. Whether you’re the one filing for divorce or your spouse has served you with papers, the team at Joe Durham Jr. P.C. can help. Contact our divorce law firm in Albany, GA to set up a consultation. We’ll explain how divorce proceedings work in Georgia and help you to understand your rights. In addition to matters of debt, we’ll advise you regarding alimony, child custody and support, and property division, among other areas.