Many divorce stories that make the news have to do with fights over valuable assets like ownership in a business, intellectual property like a patent or trademark, or real estate. But for many couples going through divorce in Kenton County and throughout Northern Kentucky, the fate of the family debt can be at least as important as how the marital property gets split up.
Debt is a major source of marital stress. The Federal Reserve Bank of New York estimates that American household debt reached $14 trillion in 2020. With unemployment so high these days, many families have been forced to spend their savings and max out their credit cards. Fears and blame over debt can convince spouses to split up.
Debt and divorce
Divorce does not make debt go away. Marital debt is treated the same as marital property; under state law, it must be divided equitably between the parties. Since “equitable” does not mean “equally,” this gives spouses a great deal of room to negotiate a settlement that both can live with. This only applies to debts belonging to both parties, often the mortgage or credit card bills. Other debt may be the responsibility of one spouse alone. In those cases, the spouse will probably have to keep those debts in their name.
What is ‘marital debt’?
Whether a debt is marital or not often depends on when it was taken out. Most debts acquired during the marriage will be considered marital debts. If you and your spouse bought a house and took out a mortgage to help pay for it, both of you are responsible for the mortgage. When a couple gets divorced, and one spouse stays in the house, the other spouse often insists that the homeowner spouse refinance the mortgage to take the second spouse’s name off of it. Thus, if the homeowner ex stops making mortgage payments, the lender cannot go after the other ex for repayment.
Negotiating a solution to your marital debt is just as important as finding an agreement over your marital assets. Your divorce attorney will work with you to identify your financial needs and do everything possible to get you to that position post-divorce.