Chances are that you entangled your finances with your spouse's soon after you married or maybe even before your wedding day. You may have bought a house together, opened joint credit card accounts, took out an auto loan or consolidated your educational debt. At the time, you may have thought that taking these steps helped to solidify your relationship. Now that you are preparing to divorce, you wonder how you will divide responsibility for your debts.
In Florida, if you and your spouse do not reach an agreement on your own, the courts will divide your assets and your debts. Florida is one of many equitable distribution states, which requires the court to split the debts as fairly as possible, taking many factors into consideration. However, in order to obtain a fair division, it may help you to understand your rights and to take some important steps before filing for divorce.
Your responsibility for the debt
If you have credit cards or other debt in your own name, those debts will probably remain yours after the divorce. The court will split your joint debt based on your income, expenses and property division. If you have a greater means to pay, you may end up with more of the marital debt. Additionally, you would be wise to keep careful records of any charges your spouse makes on a joint credit card during your separation so you do not end up paying for your spouse's splurges.
Even though the court may divide responsibility for joint debt, your name on the account means you are still legally liable for the payments. Your divorce order does not bind creditors, and they can still come after you for payment on an account the divorce court ordered your ex to pay. For this reason, you and your spouse would be wise to take the following steps before you file for divorce:
- Pay off as much joint debt as possible and close joint credit accounts.
- Remove each other as authorized users on individual credit cards.
- Consult with your creditors about reorganizing the debt by moving part to a new account for each spouse.
- Transfer credit card balances to new, individual accounts.
Large debts like your mortgage and auto loans may require refinancing or even selling the asset to pay off the debt completely. However, with the assistance of a skilled attorney, you may learn of options for a smooth and fair division of your marital debt that will allow you to keep your home if that is your goal.