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When couples divorce, they often stay tied or connected in more ways than one. If they have children together for example, the spouses will be in each other’s lives for good, especially when grandchildren come around. Another major way divorcing couples stay linked is through joint debt, and divorce in itself does not divide marital debts.

It’s a common misconception that by getting a divorce, a couple’s debts somehow divide. In reality, a divorce decree does not impact, change, or affect marital debt in any way. It does not cancel joint credit cards, it does not take a spouse’s name off of a joint mortgage or auto loan, and it does not split any other marital debts down the middle.

Pennsylvania is an Equitable Distribution State

Like most states, Pennsylvania is an equitable distribution state. Under Pennsylvania’s equitable distribution laws, when a married couple is divorcing, their debts are divided in a fair and equitable manner, which does not necessarily mean they’re split equally.

In Pennsylvania, both spouses are responsible for each other’s debts; it doesn’t matter which spouse racked up the debt as long as it’s incurred before the separation. For example, if your wife got a loan for $10,000 of dental work before the split, you’re just as liable as she is.

Or, if your husband took a month-long camping trip in Alaska to blow off some steam after a big argument with you and he charged it on a credit card that’s in his name alone, you’re just as liable for the debt as your husband.

“Generally, the person who keeps the property will be expected to pay the mortgage or debt related to that property. Does this mean that the other spouse has no financial obligation for a joint debt? Absolutely not. Even if the spouse who assumes responsibility for the property pays the existing mortgage, both spouses will still be obligated to pay the debt. The divorce decree cannot terminate your financial obligation to your creditor,” wrote James Brewer, a personal finance contributor for Forbes.

Next: Dividing Debt in a Pennsylvania Divorce

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