Am I responsible for my spouse’s debt in a divorce?

On Behalf of | Aug 10, 2020 | Property Division |

The global health crisis has had far-reaching impacts on virtually every aspect of life. In addition to the thinly stretched resources in the healthcare industry, nearly every family across the country has experienced additional challenges.

Unemployment has spiked, and many businesses have been forced to shutter. Stay-at-home orders and decreased household income have put added strain on marriages. These factors have likely contributed to the surge in the divorce rate in recent months.

If you’re currently considering the possibility of divorce, your uncertain financial situation could have you particularly worried about what your financial obligations will be if you and your spouse part ways. Will you be on the hook for your spouse’s debt?

Determining marital debt

In a divorce, there are two types of debt: marital debt and separate debt. You and your spouse have a shared responsibility to repay marital debt. Marital debt is any debt accrued during your marriage – while separate debt is debt you or your spouse acquired beforehand.

Even if your spouse was primarily the one responsible for acquiring many of these debts during the marriage, the Court of Appeals of North Carolina ruled that these debts can also be considered marital debt, especially if you benefited from them. For instance, if your spouse took out a student loan to attend medical school and subsequently became a doctor, then the case could be made that you benefited from your spouse’s higher income as a result of their studies. Thus, such student loan debt could also be considered marital debt – for which you are both responsible.

Building a strong case for yourself

North Carolina is an equitable distribution state – meaning that in a divorce, the court will divide property (and debt) based on what it deems “fair.” Because this determination can be quite subjective, it becomes especially important to have an experienced family law attorney on your side. They can build a robust case to help you reach an outcome that serves your best interests.

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