Division of Marital Debt in a Chester County Divorce
Dealing With Financial Debts During a Divorce
Credit cards, mortgages, student loans, car payments, medical bills – all of these types of debt have to be paid off before you divorce; otherwise, they could drastically impact your financial future. It is important to speak to an experienced attorney to ensure that all of your assets, including your debts, are accounted for during your divorce proceedings.
At the Law Offices of Sheryl R. Rentz, P.C., our team has more than 25 years of experience guiding clients through the divorce process and ensuring they receive their fair share from their marital assets. We work with financial experts to identify all debts, loans, and bills accumulated during your marriage. Our Chester County marital debt and divorce attorney will also negotiate with your ex’s attorney to have your property divided between you two. Call us toll-free at (866) 290-9292 to discuss your case in a free consultation.
Is Debt Considered a Marital Asset?
Under Pennsylvania state law, all assets that you and your spouse accumulate between the date you get married to the date you separate are considered marital property. While most people only think of physical or financial property, such as real estate, furniture, jewelry, or retirement funds, marital assets can also include debts that accrued during your marriage.
The types of debts that can be considered marital assets include:
- Loans, such as auto, business, or student loans
- Credit cards
- Medical bills
However, some debts may be considered separate property. For example, if you entered your marriage with your own credit card and only used it for personal payments, then it can be considered separate. It is only when you use the card for household expenses, such as vacations or furniture, that you commingle debt, which means the credit card can be considered a marital asset. The same can be said about houses you owned before your marriage. If only your name is on the mortgage, then it is only your responsibility. But if your spouse helped with the payments, it gets tricky again.
Untangling these assets requires a thorough review of your finances to determine who is responsible for what bills. Not only do you need to pay close attention to the names on your individual bills, but also comb each statement to see if your accounts ever commingled. This is very common in high-asset divorces, which require an in-depth financial review. Once you have determined what is separate and what is marital property, you can then begin dividing it according to Pennsylvania’s divorce laws.
How Is Debt Divided in Pennsylvania?
Pennsylvania divorces follow a procedure called equitable distribution, with the goal of being “fair” for both sides. This is not always a clean 50/50 split and can include several different factors, including:
- The length of your marriage
- The standard of living you both enjoyed during your marriage
- The age and health of both spouses
- The employability of either spouse
- If one spouse was the breadwinner while one managed the household
- What sources of income either spouse has
- How spouses supported each other, such as help with education, certifications, job training, etc.
These elements play a major role in how debt can be assigned, as well as which spouse can receive alimony and/or spousal support. The courts may also factor in child support, if you had children with your ex and he or she is assigned custody, as taking care of the children can be influenced by any leftover debt.
What Are Your Options?
Many issues regarding the distribution of marital property and debt can be dealt with outside of court. Through mediation, you can sit down with your spouse and their attorney to discuss how your assets should be divided. Ultimately, a Chester County family law judge has the final say over your agreements, but if you come to the judge with a plan, there may be few changes unless your case becomes contested.
Regarding marital debt, one of the most important agreements you can come to is who will have sole responsibility for a particular debt, and what debt you can pay off before ending your marriage. For debt you own jointly, such as mortgages, it is best to either sell your real estate to cover the mortgage or ensure that only one person has sole ownership. If, for example, your ex remained in the family home and was late on payments, creditors could come after you for late fees if your name is still on the mortgage.
There are several ways to deal with marital debt, including:
- Paying off joint credits and closing the accounts
- Taking your ex’s name off of your credit card accounts
- Removing your ex from your auto loans and insurance policies
- Removing your ex from any joint accounts, such as digital subscriptions, gym memberships, and other responsibilities
- Paying off medical bills
- Assigning sole ownership over real estate
Schedule a Free Case Evaluation Today
No one has ever said divorce is easy, but few fully understand the true financial difficulties of these cases. Dividing up both your marital property and debt can be a stressful process, which is why you should only trust your case to an experienced Chester County family law attorney. Our lead attorney at the Law Offices of Sheryl R. Rentz, P.C., has served clients throughout Chester County for more than 25 years. She has extensive knowledge of Pennsylvania’s divorce laws. If you are dealing with a complex, high-asset divorce, then you should sit down with Sheryl in a free consultation to discuss all of your options. To schedule a case evaluation, call us toll-free at (866) 290-9292.