Request My Consultation

You've got questions?

We've got answers!**

Send My Info

Am I Responsible for My Spouse's Debts?

Posted By Cairns Law Offices || 17-Aug-2016

One of the reasons why people put off divorce is because they're afraid that it's going to get complicated, and that is an understandable fear. When you factor in a couple's assets, children, and debts, there is a lot of sorting out that has to be done.

Some couples decide to stay in an unhappy marriage because they feel overwhelmed at the prospect of severing their financial ties. People should never have to stay in a loveless marriage because of money, but many do.

If you are considering a divorce and you and your spouse have amassed a significant amount of debt, surely you're concerned about "who" is going to pay off the debt.

If you're like a lot of clients we represent, you may have a mix of separate debts, along with several "joint" debts, such as credit cards, an automobile or two, and a mortgage.

We're going to shed some light on how debts are divided in a Pennsylvania divorce. You should find that the more you understand the topic, the easier it is to contemplate divorce. If you have any questions, please don't hesitate to contact our firm for advice!

Marital Debts and Divorce in Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania is an equitable distribution state, which means marital assets are not distributed "equally" or 50/50, but in an equitable fashion, meaning in a fair manner.

Marital assets must be divided, but married couples must also divide their marital debts upon a divorce. A marital debt is one that was incurred during the marriage, but before the couple is separated.

A marital debt includes, but is not limited to:

  • Taxes
  • Automobiles
  • Mortgages
  • Credit cards
  • Medical bills

Please note that a debt can still be considered "marital," even if only one spouse's name is on the debt. So, if a husband purchased $3,000 of sporting equipment on his credit card during the marriage, he and his wife are liable for the debt.

Same goes for a wife who took a trip to New York City with a girlfriend and put it all on her credit card, her husband will also be liable for the debt. When it comes to debts, the courts don't discriminate.

Settling Debts Before the Divorce

If you are divorcing and have debts, you want to be smart. If you have joint accounts, switch them so they are only in one spouse's name, or close them so no new debt can be incurred.

If you can afford it, we recommend paying off all marital debts before the divorce is final, such as credit card debt so you can make a clean break.

If you are both on a mortgage, either the spouse who stays in the home should refinance in their name alone, or better yet, you may want to sell the property and split the proceeds.

Remember, even if your spouse agrees to take on a debt, you have to keep an eye on it because if they fail to pay it, your credit can be negatively affected.

Searching for a Pennsylvania divorce lawyer? Contact Cairns Law Offices for a free consultation!