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Am I responsible for my spouse’s debt?

On Behalf of | Dec 5, 2022 | Divorce

Marriage may be about love, but divorce is (most often) all about finances. You don’t realize exactly how much a marriage is like a business arrangement – until you’re suddenly deep into the process of dividing up the marital assets and debts.

It’s the debts that sometimes become a big sticking point, especially when one spouse is freer with their money than the other. If your spouse racked up some major bills before or during your marriage, just how much of that do you owe?

To answer that question, you need to understand the difference between separate and marital debts and the concept of equitable distribution.

How debt gets divided in a Michigan divorce

While there can be some exceptions, you and your spouse will each generally keep whatever debt you brought into the marriage. Those debts are separate debts, not marital debts that were accrued after you said, “I do.”

That means, for example, that your spouse’s student loans that have been deferred since college are still their student loans – not yours. So, too, are the credit card balances they’ve been carrying since long before you met them.

Conversely, you can generally expect to divide any debts that you incurred together. If, for example, you jointly took out an installment loan to buy furniture for your new place after you got married, you will probably have to divide that bill. Same with any credit cards that were in both your names.

But, what about debts that your spouse ran up during the marriage without your consent, participation or maybe even your knowledge? This is where the concept of equitable distribution comes in.

Because Michigan seeks to divide the marital estate fairly – not evenly – you may be able to avoid any liability for those bills. If you can show, for example, that your spouse’s debts to the casino were entirely their own – or that sports car they bought right before your split was of no benefit to you – they will likely have to keep those bills when you divorce. After all, that’s only fair.

There are a lot of nuances when it comes to the property division process that can be difficult to navigate or negotiate on your own. Experienced legal guidance is wise.