Divorce and Debt Division

Divorce and Debt Division: Legal Strategies for Managing Marital Liabilities

Everyone has their own concerns when divorce is on the table. While some are worried solely about the assets they’ve built as a couple and how those will fairly be distributed, others are concerned about leaving the marriage in a worse position than they started in. We’re talking about debt and how it’s divided during an Alabama divorce.

Concerned about how your marital debts and assets will be handled as you move through the divorce process? Having the right legal team on your side can help you make the best decisions for you. Call us at 334-560-1936 to set up a time to talk to our team now.

Thorough Documentation is Key

First, know that you will likely have to step up and advocate for yourself throughout this process. If your ex-partner racked up debt in the final days of your marriage, odds are good that they will want you to take on “your fair share” of it—even if you never benefited from the money they spent. This can feel like a slap in the face, especially if financial issues are one of the main reasons for your divorce.

It’s important to document your income, the debts you currently pay on, and your budget. In Alabama, a 50/50 split of debt is not automatically presumed. Instead, both assets and debts are divided in an equitable manner. This means that the court will take a wide range of factors into account, and those are the same factors you should take into account while negotiating. Factors include who ran up the debt, the other party’s role in the debt, who benefited from the debt, who has the asset tied to the debt, and who has the ability to pay the debt.

Who Owns the Debt Matters

In community property states, any debt taken on during a marriage is automatically considered to be marital debt—even if it was hidden from one spouse. Luckily, Alabama is not a community property state. If your partner takes out a credit card in their name alone and you are never listed on it, it will likely be solely their responsibility in the divorce. However, if a debt is in both party’s names, it is a bit more complicated.

While the court may order one party to take over payments for a specific debt, that type of agreement is dependent on the paying party’s integrity. If your spouse is ordered to pay a shared debt in your divorce and they fail to do so, the original holder of the debt will come after you. Your divorce agreement is a contract between you and your ex, not the creditor. For that reason, if any debt is divided between you and your spouse, push to have it refinanced into the responsible party’s name. This protects you and your creditor from the consequences of their actions.

When Was the Debt Accrued?

The timeline of the debt is another important factor to consider. Debt accrued before marriage is generally the responsibility of the person who brought it into the marriage. While there are circumstances in which a separate debt can become a marital debt, this is fairly uncommon.

If a debt was acquired during the marriage, there’s a possibility that it will be considered marital debt if both people paid toward it and benefited from it. There is quite a bit of nuance in this topic, so it’s important to discuss it with an attorney.

Secured Debt

This topic can become complicated when you talk about secured debt, as is the case with cars and houses. Consider this scenario: Partner A is the only person named on the mortgage but both Partner A and B are listed on the deed to a home. Partner B insists that they are owed the home and that the mortgage is not their responsibility. In most cases, though, the person who walks away from a divorce with an asset also walks away with the debt used to pay for it. Consider whether or not these debts are reasonable for your budget when deciding if you want to fight for certain assets.

Discuss Your Options with the Team at Haygood, Cleveland, Pierce, Thompson & Short

Your divorce will undoubtedly raise lots of difficult questions. We’re here to answer them, provide insight, and help you reach a decision you are happy with. Set up a time to talk to the Auburn attorneys at Haygood, Cleveland, Pierce, Thompson & Short now. Call us at 334-560-1936 or send us a message online to get started.

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