What Happens to Debt in Divorce?
An experienced Franklin divorce attorney explains your legal rights and obligations
You have marital property in marriage, but you also have marital debt. Just as you have the right to a share of any assets acquired during your marriage, such as your home and your investments, you also have the responsibility to pay off the debts acquired together, such as credit card balances and loans.
Typically, Tennessee law would treat debts acquired during the marriage as the shared responsibility of both spouses, and those debts would be split right down the middle during divorce. However, just like other aspects of your divorce, dividing debt is rarely that simple.
Some of the things that the court will look at when determining how to divide up debt include:
- The purpose of the debt
- Whether the debt was incurred by you both as a couple or individually
- Who benefitted from the debt
- Who has the means to best repay the debt
For example, if your former spouse decided to go back to school during your marriage and took out a student loan, the judge may decide that you are not responsible for helping to pay back that debt. In that case, the debt would be in your former spouse’s name and would have been for the benefit of your former partner.
Something like credit card debt can be a bit trickier. Even if the card is in one person’s name, it can be hard to prove who was responsible for driving up the debt and who benefitted most from it. Typically, the court would assume the debt was incurred by both parties for the benefit of both and would divide the responsibility for the debt evenly if both parties have the ability to pay it.
However, the court will consider other circumstances when dividing debt. For example, if you get the house in your settlement, you may also “win” the debt of the mortgage, the home equity loan, or any lines of credit you took out as a couple to improve the house.
Extenuating circumstances can also be taken into account when determining the division of debts, such as infidelity or fraud. That’s why it’s so important to work with an experienced divorce attorney who can create a strong argument in your favor.
As a divorce lawyer, I have been helping clients get a truly equitable division of debts in their divorce for more than twenty years. My goal is ensuring you get a settlement that accounts for how you personally benefitted and what you can actually afford.
I am Judy A. Oxford, and I am an experienced Franklin, Tennessee divorce lawyer. Rest assured I am dedicated to getting the best divorce settlement for my clients, so you get a fresh start after the end of your marriage. Call my office at (615) 791-8511 for a free 20-minute consultation or use the secure online form. I work with clients in Franklin, Brentwood, Nashville, Spring Hill, Murfreesboro, Dickson, Lewisburg, Lebanon, Shelbyville, Gallatin, Hendersonville and throughout Middle Tennessee.