When considering a divorce in Georgia, you might imagine a future with less anxiety or stress. Before you can get there, your attorney will need to work out the terms of your divorce and manage any debt accumulated during your marriage.
What happens to that debt when the divorce is finalized? Does one partner get stuck with everything? Understanding how debt works in a divorce is essential to ensure a fair outcome.
Defining Debt: Marital Versus Separate
According to a recent study, American households have $16.9 trillion in any kind of debt, averaging about $169,242 per household. While student loan debt is decreasing, mortgages, credit card debt, and auto loans are rising.
Like assets, debt is defined as either marital or separate. If you had the debt before you were married, it is considered “separate,” which means you’ll likely own it. If the debt was accumulated during your marriage, it is typically considered marital and will likely be split between the divorcing partners.
For instance, student loan debts from before the marriage could be considered separate, and the spouse who accrued that debt must pay for it. However, if a partner returned to school during the marriage and racked up student loan debt, both spouses could take on a portion of that debt after the divorce.
It usually doesn’t matter if only one spouse is responsible for the new debt in a marriage. You could be liable for your spouse’s credit card debt if you get divorced. But just because debt exists doesn’t mean you’ll receive half of it.
Equitable Distribution in Georgia Divorces
Georgia law states that a couple’s assets and debts will be divided equitably, or fairly, not 50-50. The debts and assets will be divided based on each partner’s contributions to the marriage.
To determine how debts are divided, a court will examine factors like:
- Each party’s income before and during the marriage
- How long the marriage lasted
- The financial needs of all parties
- Who is the custodial parent, if children are involved
- The needs of minor children
In some cases, a judge will also consider the grounds for the divorce if they feel it’s relevant to the debts accrued.
How Is the Debt Divided?
Once the marriage’s debts and assets have been evaluated, it will be time to divide them. Working with your spouse to assign the debts fairly is possible, but if you cannot agree, a judge may need to weigh in on the issue.
Because the split isn’t 50-50, you’ll need a fair outcome between the spouses. If one partner generated $40,000 worth of debt while the other only generated $5,000, expecting the second to receive less debt may be reasonable. However, if the second spouse also makes more money, they could be responsible for paying more of the debt. That said, credit card debt accrued for joint purposes like groceries or school supplies for your children is likely to be fairly divided – regardless of whose name is on the credit card.
FAQs About Dividing Debt in a Divorce
A knowledgeable divorce lawyer can fight for you and your interests through dividing your debts and completing your divorce. Each case is unique, but you can explore your options before seeking or finalizing a divorce.
Do I Need a Lawyer to Divide My Debts?
Although it is possible to divide assets independently, you should consider calling a lawyer to help. Spouses need to agree on how assets are evaluated and divided. If they can’t, the matter goes to a judge. A lawyer will assess the debt and fight for the most favorable division possible for you.
If My Spouse is Assigned Debt, am I Free of It?
You could still be liable for the debt even if it’s assigned to your spouse. If your name appears on a loan agreement, you could be on the hook for that debt if it defaults. A lawyer can explain why this is problematic and how it might hurt debt mitigation efforts if you need them.
Can Debt Division Affect Other Parts of My Divorce?
When judges decide how debt is divided between divorcing spouses, they will also consider other aspects of the divorce agreement. For instance, the custodial parent of the children may not get as much debt. A partner could be assigned debt payments instead of paying alimony. A lawyer can guide you through these circumstances as they arise.
Can a Marietta Divorce Lawyer Help Me?
Getting a divorce is complicated no matter how long your marriage has lasted. Although you may be trying to stay positive, it’s easy for things like dividing assets and debts to slip your mind. You want what’s best for your family, but maybe your soon-to-be-ex has made things difficult. Before you throw in the towel and give in to their demands, consider calling a Marietta divorce lawyer for help.
An attorney can guide you through the process to protect yourself and your family. Understanding what debts could be divided and what will remain separate takes a discerning eye. A compassionate divorce lawyer can assess the situation and help you establish a fair outcome. Your divorce lawyer should protect you from shouldering your spouse’s debt if you weren’t responsible.
Call Gentry Law for Help Dividing Your Debts Today
The Gentry Law Firm was built to help good people get through divorce while protecting their futures. Our Marietta family law lawyers understand divorce is a sensitive subject. Dividing debts may sound simple in theory, but many factors can complicate the process. We’re ready to help you evaluate and assign debts.