Debt seems to be a normal part of life in the United States – everyone has some. While some couples may not have significant debt, according to Experian, married Americans have 120% more debt on average than single Americans. So, it’s very likely that if you’re married, you’re in debt. Married couples have on average $112,627 in debt, which is $61,000 more than a single consumer. The same study found that the average couple in credit card debt was unable to pay it off in full each month, so they were paying significant interest on their debt.
With so much debt saddling couples, there’s no surprise that debt and assets become a serious conversation during divorce proceedings. In Pennsylvania, divorce law allows couples to decide who will assume what debt. During the property division portion of the divorce process, couples will create a settlement agreement that outlines the debts and who will pay each line item. Settlement agreements are a little tricky as far as debt payments are concerned. Creditors will still hold both parties responsible for joint debt assigned to one partner if they don’t uphold their part of the settlement agreement. Because the settlement agreement is a document governing the relationship between the divorcing parties, it has nothing to do with your creditors.If one party in the relationship for whatever reason does not pay, the other party can sue them for failure to adhere to the agreement, but it will cost legal fees and court costs. This can be a deterrent for many people in this situation.
How to Manage Your Debt Before Filing Your Pennsylvania Divorce
Being in debt is a stressful situation, and it can complicate your divorce. The more debt you can pay off before filing for divorce the better. Both parties in a marriage should know what they owe and if any debts are past due. Often in marriages, this is not the case. There is usually one person in the marriage who is in charge of the money. If you have a variety of debt types, before filing for divorce, you should address your debt to try and make it more manageable. Review all of your debt and check the interest rates and pay off the higher rate ones first and the lowest interest rate debt last. Getting a firm handle on the types of debt you have and how much you owe will give you a better idea of your overall financial position.
The Benefits of Paying Off Debt Before Filing
If you and your spouse have a poor relationship, getting divorced is about getting a fresh start. When you have lingering issues from your marriage following you into your life post-divorce, it can be stressful and frustrating. There are many benefits to getting your financial situation cleaned up before filing for divorce.
Here are a few reasons you should pay off as much debt as possible before filing:
- You won’t get a fresh start when carrying debt from your previous marriage into your new life.
- If you divide debts, you will need to depend on your ex-spouse to pay theirs, which means they still can impact your finances.
- It can prolong the divorce process because you and your spouse may struggle during the debt and asset division process.
- Shared debt keeps your ex-spouse in your life until the debt is gone.
The Importance of Legal Representation
There isn’t a single solution that will be right for every situation, so it’s best to work with advisors and develop a strategy that will advance your interests. At Cairns Law Offices, we specialize in no-fault divorces for only $219. If the idea of a low-cost, amicable divorce appeals to you, contact us today to get started! Call us today at (888) 863-9115 to schedule a consultation.