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Divorce Debt 101: Who is Responsible for Paying?


According to the CDC, the divorce rate in the United States is about 3.2 per 1,000 people. Many people seeking a divorce in Florida will naturally be concerned about how their marital property will be divided. Property that can be divided in a marriage includes all physical assets, income, real estate, stocks, retirement funds, and debt. Are these assets split based on who purchased them? D

What Are Property Division Laws In Florida?

Florida is an equitable distribution state, which means that the court attempts to divide marital property in an equitable manner rather than splitting it equally between the two parties, which is the case in community property states.

Equitable distribution means that both assets and liabilities will be divided fairly between the two parties. For example, if one partner has contributed significantly to the income and assets in the marriage, and the other has primarily contributed to the debts and liabilities, the distribution may not be split fifty-fifty.

Sometimes, depending on the type of asset, it may be exempt from equitable distribution and belong solely to one party if it has remained as separate property throughout the marriage. This goes for debt as well. Debt that was acquired prior to marriage will be considered separate, and only the spouse who acquired the debt will be responsible for paying for it.

Marital Debt

Under equitable distribution, debt that was acquired during the marriage is the responsibility of both parties.

Types of marital debt can include:

  • Credit card balances
  • Mortgages
  • Car loans
  • Business debt
  • Home equity lines of credit
  • Various other types of loans

How is Debt Divided?

Unless the couple had a legal agreement, like a prenuptial or postnuptial agreement, that states otherwise, this debt will be both spouse’s property regardless of whose name it is in. Therefore, even if one spouse had opened credit and acquired significant debt even without the other’s knowledge, both may be liable for paying it back. However, there are a few exceptions, and debt may not be split equally depending on the couple’s situation.

To determine if an unequal division is justified, the court will look closely at numerous factors, including:

  • How much did each spouse contribute to the marriage?
  • What is each spouse’s earning capacity?
  • How long was the couple married to each other?
  • Did one spouse contribute to the career and education of the other?
  • Is there a prenuptial or postnuptial agreement in place regarding debt?

Depending on these factors, the court may decide to assign one spouse more debt than the other. For example, the court may find that one spouse wasted marital assets through reckless spending. In this case, the court might decide to allocate more of the debt to the party found guilty of reckless spending. However, that spouse might also be granted more assets to make everything fairer for both parties.

Once the court determines how to divide the couple’s debt, they will assign responsibility for payment to one spouse or the other. After this is done, the other spouse should have their name removed from any accounts to ensure they are no longer held liable for payment.

Do I Need Legal Help?

Florida divorce laws are complex, and attempting to handle them on your own is not the wisest decision. Advocate Law Firm, P.A. can provide the aggressive legal defense you need so that you can achieve an equitable distribution of debts and assets. Our professional and dedicated staff can alleviate the stress and overwhelming emotion that accompanies a divorce.

Call our Bartow divorce lawyer today at (863) 644-5566 to schedule a consultation or complete our online contact form here.