Getting a divorce can be a difficult, emotional time. Many couples struggle to agree about the basics of the process, including child custody and asset division. One thing fewer people stop to think about before filing divorce is debt.
Student loans, car loans, mortgages and credit cards all have a profound impact on your financial status. While you are likely aware of the fact that your marital assets will get divided by the courts during your divorce, you may not realize that your debts and your spouse's debts will get divided as well. Unless there is a prenuptial agreement, you will end up sharing the debts.
Slippery slope between the terms "equitable" and "fair"
When it comes to property division, Georgia is an equitable distribution state. That means that the courts will look over your current circumstances and consider your future prospects when deciding how to divide your assets and debts.
For example, if one spouse has historically stayed home and therefore has fewer personal assets and less earning potential, the courts will consider that when deciding how to divide up your assets during the divorce. Equitable basically means fair, and fair does not always mean a 50/50 split of all assets.
The date of the debt matters more than the name
So, you may be thinking that the courts couldn't possibly expect you to pay on a credit card or a student loan that is solely in your spouse's name. However, depending on when the loan or line of credit was taken out, the courts could very well order you to assume half of that debt.
Just like with assets, debts from before the marriage are one person's obligation. Any debts incurred after your marriage are considered marital debts. Those debts will be split equitably, even if only one spouse contributed to their development. After all, your spouse assumed those student loans while believing that both of your incomes would be put toward paying it off.
Exceptions to equitable distribution of debts
There are some exceptions to the practice of dividing marital debts. In cases of adultery, for example, the courts may review financial information more carefully. Any amount of money spent on an affair, from gifts, to rent, to vacations and dinners could come out of the assets that would otherwise get allocated to the partner who cheated.
Similarly, if one spouse was recklessly squandering marital assets by gambling or feeding an addiction, those funds could also be considered during the debt and asset division process.
If your spouse had the debt before your marriage, you likely won't have to help pay it. Excepting special circumstances, however, you could very well end up paying half of any debt accumulated during the course of your marriage.