Debts incurred by either spouse during the marriage are collectively referred to as marital debts and are usually subject to division during a divorce. These may include financial obligations like mortgages, car loans, credit cards and student loans.
The debt division process can proceed in several ways. First, if you and your spouse agree on the way forward, the court will formalize the agreement, leaving each party with their share of the marital debt. Alternatively, a valid and legally enforceable contract like a prenup could inform how much debt each spouse will end up with. Otherwise, state laws prevail, as explained below.
Marital debt will be divided equitably
Unlike some jurisdictions where marital debts are divided equally, Florida law adopts an equitable distribution. This approach strives to divide marital assets and debts in a fair and just manner, considering various aspects unique to each case. Some of the factors a judge will consider in a litigated scenario include:
- The length of the marriage
- The economic circumstances of each spouse
- The contributions each spouse made to the marriage
- The desirability of keeping assets and debts intact and free from interference by the other party
- The desirability of retaining the marital home as a residence for any dependent children
- Any other factors in the interests of an equitable division
Depending on the circumstances of your situation, you may end up with less or more marital debt than your spouse. It’s also important to understand that you may still be liable for debts you co-signed, even if the court assigns them to your spouse if you don’t transfer those debts to their name alone. The court’s division of debts is a legal determination for the purposes of the divorce proceedings, but it doesn’t absolve you from your obligations to creditors.
Learning more about how debt division works and seeking necessary legal guidance can help protect your interests if you have decided to divorce. In some ways, debt division can be just as important as asset division when it comes to securing a stable financial future.