Figuring Out How to Divide Credit Card Debt during Divorce
One of the hardest parts of any divorce is settling which spouse should be responsible for debt. Some financial obligations are easier to address, such as the marital home, which can be sold if necessary to get rid of a large mortgage, but other obligations, credit card debt especially, can lead to heated disputes. Florida divorce law does not explicitly differentiate between dividing debt and assets, and instead addresses the division of marital property generally. Dividing assets can cause conflict, but is typically easier to accept than assuming responsibility for a shared debt that potentially could impact one’s finances for years. However, many couples getting divorced now have debts that exceed the value of shared assets, so escaping the assumption of some share of the marital debt, absent extraordinary circumstances, is not possible. A discussion of how debt is divided in divorce, including how courts separate marital from non-marital financial obligations, will follow below.
Property Division Generally
Parties are usually best served by consenting to a property settlement agreement, with the help of an experienced divorce attorney, so they can take into account finances and history as a couple, factors a court cannot fully appreciate or entirely consider. However, if a judge is asked to settle the division of property, it will do so under the premise that property should be divided equitably. This usually means couples will equally share assets and liabilities, but a court will look at a number of factors to see if a 50/50 split would be fair.
Marital vs. Non-Marital Property
In addition to determining the proper allocation of assets and liabilities, a court may also be required to decide what property should be included within the marital estate. Only marital property can be divided in divorce, so settling which items fall into this category is crucial to the ultimate financial settlement a party will receive. Generally speaking, any asset or liability acquired by either spouse during the course of the marriage is considered marital property, including debt incurred by just one spouse. Courts tend to keep debt assumed by one spouse with that person, but there is no guarantee that will be the outcome. Factors, such as the financial resources of each spouse and whether one spouse dissipated marital assets, could persuade a court to assign the debt to the other spouse. However, financial obligations incurred prior to marriage that are still outstanding are considered non-marital or separate property, and are not subject to division.
Credit Card Debt
Credit card debt can be a pivotal issue in divorce, and for accounts that are listed in the names of both spouses, the fairest outcome parties are likely to see from a court is a roughly equal division of the number of accounts and the amount owed. As alluded to above, accounts solely in the name of one spouse could become the responsibility of the other party as part of the divorce decree, as any marital property may be assigned to either party. The circumstances of the marriage and how debt and assets were acquired will ultimately help the court decide what a fair division would look like. With credit card debt in particular, it is important to understand that unless an account holder’s name is removed, the credit card company can still go after that individual if the debt is not paid. This is true even if the other spouse was obligated to pay the account under the terms of the divorce settlement. Selling off marital assets while the divorce is pending to pay down shared debt may be the best way to limit the impact to one’s credit and overall financial health once the divorce process is complete.
Contact an Orlando Divorce Lawyer
The financial implications of divorce cannot be overstated, and to ensure your rights and interests are fully protected, work with an experienced divorce attorney who can advise you on the legal ramifications of a proposed settlement or court-ordered divorce decree. Orlando’s Donna Hung Law Group understands the most pressing issues in divorce, and will work to obtain a result that is in your best interests and those of your family. Contact us at (407) 999-0099 to schedule a confidential consultation.