The financial aspects of divorce can be contentious. Two people shared their lives together, including purchases, bills, and debts. People often focus on the division of assets during divorce proceedings, which is certainly an important element. However, the determining who's responsible for household debts is just as important.
If the marriage doesn't make it, what happens to the unpaid financial obligations?
What Types of Debts are Reviewed in a Divorce?
Throughout your marriage, you and your spouse acquired debt much in the same manner as you acquired assets.
If you purchased a home, for example, your house became an asset while the mortgage became a debt. If you're upside down on your home, meaning you owe more than your home is worth, you may feel even greater financial pressure. Credit cards, car notes, and student loan debts are other types of debt commonly discussed during divorce proceedings.
In reality, any amount of money you and your spouse owe to another company or individual could be subject to division when you go through a divorce. It's not the type of debt that matters; what the courts will look is how and when your debt was acquired.
How Do Courts Divide Debt?
The courts take the same approach to the division of debts as they do assets. The state of Minnesota is an equitable distribution state, meaning the courts will seek to divide assets and debts in a manner that's "just and equitable." Bear in mind that 'equitable' does not necessarily mean your debts will be split evenly down the middle; rather, it means the courts will look for a resolution that's as fair as possible to you and your former partner.
Before your debts can be divided, Minnesota judges must first determine if each debt was accumulated jointly by you and your spouse as a couple or individually by you or your spouse.
- Marital Debts. Marital debts are those debts, which were acquired by you and your spouse as a couple during the marriage. Minnesota law assumes that any property or debts acquired during a marriage are classified as marital; however, a judge may determine that certain debts that were acquired during your marriage benefited only one of you. In these instances, the judge may assign the responsibility of the repayment of those debts as though they're nonmarital.
- Nonmarital Debts. Nonmarital debts are those debts, which only pertain to you or your spouse. If either of you came into the marriage with debts, you'll likely own those debts after the divorce. As mentioned above, some debts may be considered nonmarital -- even if they were acquired while you were married -- if they only benefited you or your spouse.
Navigating the issues revolving around debts during a divorce can be quite overwhelming. Experienced divorce attorneys often have a network of trusted colleagues to whom they can refer you. If you're in need of guidance regarding your debt, ask your divorce lawyer if he or she can recommend a bankruptcy attorney, tax lawyer, or real estate professional who can guide you through the process.