Can Your Spouse’s Credit Card Debt Affect Your Divorce in PA?
The process of dividing a couple’s property during divorce proceedings does not stop at marital assets like the family home or cars. Many people are unaware that a couple’s accumulated debt is also distributed.
It is therefore crucial you understand what debt you and your partner share and how to protect yourself if your partner has been running up the credit card bills.
What Is Marital Debt and Who Is Responsible for This?
Martial debt consists of all debt accumulated from the date of marriage until the date of final separation. This includes but is not limited to mortgages, loans, credit card balances, and tax obligations. In regard to credit card debt, it is not important who opened or used the credit card. The final balance is considered ‘marital debt and is subject to equitable distribution by the court.
As both divorcing parties’ debt gets lumped together, it is irrelevant if you are ignorant to your spouse’s debt. This will not preclude responsibility. So if your partner ran up $100,000 in credit card debt while you were married, the law views part of that debt as yours. Exactly how much will be an issue for the negotiating table or, failing that, a matter for a judge in PA to decide.
How Does the Court Apportion Marital Debt?
Pennsylvania is an equitable distribution state, which means the court has the authority to apportion marital debt in any way they see fit. Typically this will already have been determined by the divorcing parties during negotiation, but where a negotiated agreement is not possible, a judge can step in and use their discretion to make the decision. There is no guarantee that this will be a 50/50 split. This decision is influenced by a range of factors outlined in the statute including:
- Amount of the debt, and how and when it occurred
- Duration of the marriage
- Age and physical/mental health of each party
- Economic circumstances of each party
- Contributions from one party to the other including as a homemaker
- Benefits and insurance
- Tax consequences for distribution of assets
- Assets and current value of marital property
How Does Debt Affect Your Divorce?
Many couples struggle with money troubles and it is common for parties to be ignorant to their other half’s accumulated debt. Couples frequently deal with issues such as a gambling addiction or compulsive shopping, or even just poor communication about household finances. It is often during the discovery process of divorce proceedings that each partner is made aware of the other’s financial struggles.
While some cases are clear cut about who is responsible for the debt, where there has been an abuse of trust (e.g., secret gambling), the general rule of apportionment can be skipped. However, typically marital debt is shared in a manner similar to how the couple’s assets have been apportioned.
How We Can Help
Each debt division case is unique; therefore, if you are thinking about getting a divorce, it is crucial to speak with an experienced Pennsylvania divorce attorney who can walk you through the process.
To find out how your spouse’s debt might affect you during a divorce, contact the Law Offices of Sheryl R. Rentz, P.C. for an initial consultation at (610) 645-0100. We will go over your options and help you get a better understanding of what to expect during your case.