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What happens to debt in a divorce?

On Behalf of | May 22, 2024 | Divorce

In New York, the process of dividing property and debts during a divorce follows the principle of equitable distribution. This means that the court aims to divide assets and debts fairly, though not necessarily equally, between the spouses. While many people focus on the division of assets like homes and bank accounts, the equitable distribution of debt is an equally important and often overlooked aspect.

Equitable distribution of debt

Equitable distribution of debt involves dividing the financial obligations incurred during the marriage. These debts can include credit card balances, mortgages, car loans, and other liabilities.

Factors affecting debt distribution

When deciding how to divide debt in a divorce, the court considers various factors. These include the nature of the debt – whether it was for marital purposes or for the benefit of one spouse. The court also looks at each spouse’s financial situation, including income, earning potential, and financial needs. Contributions to the marriage, both financial and non-monetary, are also taken into account. The length of the marriage also plays a role, with longer marriages resulting in a more balanced distribution of debt.

Hidden debts and undisclosed liabilities

A crucial and often misunderstood aspect of debt division is the handling of hidden debts and undisclosed liabilities. If one spouse incurs debt without the other spouse’s knowledge, especially if it is for non-marital purposes, the court may assign that debt solely to the responsible party.

Legal strategies for managing debt during divorce

To manage debt effectively during a divorce, consider these strategies:

  • Debt settlement: Couples can agree to pay off certain debts before finalizing the divorce to simplify the division process.
  • Debt assignment: Spouses can agree on who will take responsibility for specific debts, subject to court approval.
  • Refinancing: Refinancing joint debts into individual names can help prevent future disputes and ensure each spouse is responsible for their assigned debts.

By understanding the nuances of debt division, divorcing couples can better prepare for the financial implications of their separation and work towards a fair and equitable resolution.