Am I Liable for My Ex-Spouse's Debts?

Posted on October 06, 2016 05:22pm
Am I Liable for My Ex-Spouse's Debts?

Property division can be one of the most confusing and challenging parts of a divorce, especially when there are significant assets or debts involved. While most people are aware that items of value are divisible in a divorce, some fail to consider that debts must also be reassigned. In this blog, we’ll explain the basics of division of assets and debts.

Debts are divided in the same manner as assets.

Washington is a community property state, which means that all property acquired and income earned during a marriage belongs to both spouses equally. Likewise, any debts that are acquired by either spouse during the marriage is considered to belong equally to both spouses.

As a general rule, any asset or debt acquired before the marriage will remain entirely with the spouse to whom it originally belonged, while any property or debt acquired during the marriage will be subject to division – regardless of who was responsible for it.

What if you’re not the one responsible for incurring the debt?

For example, if your husband had $10,000 worth of credit card debt before your marriage, that debt will likely remain his when you divorce. Conversely, if your husband accrued credit card debt after your marriage in order to pay for home repairs or medical bills, that debt legally belongs to both spouses (even though it is not in your name) and can be split at divorce.

“Fair and Equitable”

Community property is divided in a manner that is considered to be fair and equitable to both spouses. This often means the assets and debts are divided equally – but not always. There may be narrow circumstances in which a person can show that their spouse alone incurred debt without benefitting the marital community. In this case, it may be argued that it is not fair or equitable to split the debt between the spouses. If successful, they may be relieved from having to assume a portion of that debt when their marriage ends.

Have further questions about property division or another divorce matter? The Washington divorce attorneys at McKinley Irvin are available to help. To request an initial evaluation of your case, please feel free to contact us and we will connect you with an experienced divorce lawyer best suited to handle your case.
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