You are facing divorce. It may have come as a shock or a long time in the making, but you have a lot to consider as you prepare for the process. If you and your spouse have been married a long time, you may find splitting up more difficult than those with shorter marriages. In fact, the longer you are married, the more entwined aspects of your life become, primarily the financial aspects.

Regardless of which one of you was the one to file for divorce, the fact remains that you have a lot of work ahead of you. You are probably focusing on the division of custody above all, and certainly, you want to ensure you receive your fair share of the marital assets. However, there is one part of property division many divorcing couples overlook.

The ball and chain of debt

Along with dividing your assets during divorce, the Georgia family court may divide your joint debts. The problem with this division is that the lenders typically don’t recognize that split. If your name is on a loan, you are still legally responsible, even if the court assigned its repayment to your spouse.

Some spouses have found this creates tremendous struggle if the spouse assigned to pay a certain debt simply refuses — or is financially unable — to meet the obligation. The issue is especially murky if you and your spouse consolidated individual loans into a joint loan.

Debt consolidation

Federal laws no longer allow couples to consolidate separate loans into joint loans, precisely because it potentially creates undue struggles if the couple divorces. However, if you and your spouse consolidated your individual student loans, for example, prior to the 2005 law preventing this, you may have a serious issue after your divorce. Many ex-spouses report having to assume thousands of dollars in their former spouse’s debt, even after they agreed on a payment plan.

On the other hand, the law also forbids you from re-dividing those consolidated loans. This presents special concerns for those who are victims of domestic violence. If their abusers refuse to pay their share of the debt, the victim’s only choices are to pursue the ex for payment or take on the debt alone. This often leads to years of financial struggle or bankruptcy.

If you worry about being in a situation where you are holding the joint debt for which your spouse will not take responsibility, your best course of action is to eliminate as much of the debt as possible before the divorce. You may have to make adjustments to your lifestyle, and certainly you will want the assistance and guidance of a legal professional throughout the entire process.