Will I Get Stuck with My Spouse’s Debt?

One of the most common fears amongst people going through a divorce is what their financial future will look like. When dual-income marriages result in divorce, each party’s expenses go up while their available income diminishes—the bills and debt that accrued during the marriage do not simply disappear and debt must be dealt with.

Money is one of the key subjects that couples fight about and these fights often result in divorce. This can be especially true when one spouse is more fiscally responsible than the other. When one spouse has accrued debts over the course of a marriage, the other spouse may fear getting saddled with the debt that was not his or her fault.

What Illinois Law Governs the Distribution of Debts?

Like most matters related to divorce, the distribution of debts in a divorce is governed by the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act. This law lays out how courts are supposed to divide both assets and debts when a couple divorces. It also explains how the distribution relates to other divorce-related matters like child custody and child support. For example, if a marital home is to be kept and not sold, there is a preference that the children are allowed to remain in their family home. However, that is just one of many factors a court will consider both in determining custody and in determining who gets the house. Another example is that the amount of debt an individual is expected to take on may affect his or her ability to pay child support if he or she is not the primary custodial parent.

How are Debts Divided?

Under Illinois law, a court will distribute all of the marital assets and liabilities in the event of a divorce. Marital debt includes most debt that is incurred during the course of a marriage before a legal separation or divorce occurs. This debt is considered marital debt regardless of whether or not it is only in one party’s name. Non-marital debts are considered separate and remain the responsibility of the party who incurred them. Thus, if you came into a marriage with student loans and you never consolidated them with your spouse’s student loans, those loans will still be your responsibility after a divorce. The same goes for credit card debt accrued before a marriage. If a credit card is used during a marriage and is only in one spouse’s name, then a court may look into who benefited from the charges on the card. If only the card holder benefited, this might be considered separate debt, not marital debt.

Ultimately, marital debts will be divided equitably, not necessarily equally. A court considers several factors when deciding what is a fair distribution of marital debt. It will consider each spouse’s needs, the length of a marriage, the amount of maintenance awards, and the nature of custody awards in making its decision.

Call Sullivan Taylor, Gumina & Palmer, P.C.

When you are going through a divorce you will have a lot of questions. Who gets what? Who has to pay for what? Where will the kids live? What will visitation look like? In order to answer these questions in a way that works for you, you should seek out the advice of the Illinois divorce attorneys at Sullivan Taylor, Gumina & Palmer, P.C. When you call us at (630) 756-5112 we will schedule a consultation to go over your situation and determine what the best strategy is for you going forward. We will answer your questions and help you find the solutions you need. Call us today.