Many spouses in Florida view divorce as a chance to start over. But starting over doesn’t mean you’ll do so without a mountain of debt. During your marriage, you and your spouse may have accumulated substantial sums of debt. If you don’t handle it the right way, you could end up owing long after your divorce papers are signed. Before beginning your divorce, turn to Orlando Family Team. We have helped numerous divorcing spouses navigate the stress and complexities of divorcing with debt and can craft a legal solution that fits your situation.
Our husband and wife team understands how difficult this family transition can be and will provide you with informed representation and dependable service when you need it most. Please contact our office today to discuss your case with one of our experienced family law attorneys.
The Perils of Debt When Divorcing
One of the most important things to know about marital debts is that your creditors do not care whether you are going through a divorce. If your name is on a credit card or other account, and you don’t do anything about it while divorcing, that debt will end up being your responsibility long after your marriage ends. Even if your spouse was the one who used the account to rack up debt, at the end of the day, your name is still on it. Fortunately, you do have options.
How Equitable Distribution Can Help with Divorcing with Debt
Florida is an equitable distribution state. That means when it comes to dividing marital assets – as well as marital debts and liabilities – the court doesn’t necessarily split everything down the middle. “Equitable” means fair, not equal. The court will examine a number of statutory factors to decide how assets and debts will be divided in a manner that is fair to both parties.
The court’s equitable distribution powers extend only to marital debts. Separate debts, including those incurred before the marriage, are generally excluded from this process. “Marital” generally includes anything that was acquired by either spouse after the marriage, with some exceptions.
However, this legal doctrine can be misleading. Just because one spouse’s name is on a debt doesn’t mean only that spouse will be responsible for it. And the presence of both names on an account won’t prevent the court from assigning responsibility for it to only one spouse.
That’s because equitable distribution largely ignores how debts are titled and focuses more on how they are used. For example, one spouse may open a credit card during the marriage and begin to accumulate debt on it. Similarly, a spouse may bring a credit card into the marriage and continue growing a balance. At first glance, you might assume that the spouse whose name is on the account would ultimately be liable for the debt. Not necessarily so with equitable distribution.
If you have debt in your name, but it was incurred for the benefit of the marriage or it was misused by your husband or wife in some way, you might be able to have a judge assign responsibility for it to your spouse. But these aren’t necessarily the only reasons your spouse may end up having to take over some – or even all – of the marital debt.
What Are The Equitable Distribution Factors?
Under Florida’s equitable distribution statute, the court is required to consider the following factors in deciding how to split marital debts:
- The contribution to the marriage and household by each spouse
- The parties’ respective economic circumstances
- The duration of the marriage
- Any interruption to career or education because of the marriage
- Whether either spouse contributed to the career or educational opportunities of the other
- The desirability of retaining any particular asset
- Whether either spouse helped improve either marital or nonmarital assets
- The desirability of retaining the marital home as a residence for any dependent child of the marriage
- The intentional dissipation, waste, depletion, or destruction of marital assets
- Any other factors necessary to do equity and justice between the parties
Several of these have a direct bearing on the question of who should be responsible for marital debts. For example, some spouses accumulate debt for the purpose of improving upon a marital asset, like the house. Even though the debt is in one person’s name, it was used to enhance a marital piece of property. In a situation like that, the other spouse should bear some responsibility for the debt.
Your spouse may try to make you responsible for marital debts that he or she ran up. However, if the other spouse abused a credit card or other account, you can turn back this attempt. There are also cases in which a spouse recklessly runs up debt, takes numerous cash advances, or uses a credit account for personal – not marital – gain. Here again, the spouse who misused the account is the one who should bear at least some portion of it.
How Can A Florida Divorce Attorney Help Me?
At Orlando Family Team, we will work to make sure the “equitable” distribution in your case truly is equitable. This starts by reviewing all credit and other debt accounts and holding your soon-to-be-ex accountable for his or her fair share of the debts. We also know how to uncover assets which he or she may have hidden and which can be used to satisfy debts.
Where possible, we will work to remove your name from all joint debt accounts. But the other spouse may be ordered to pay an account that remains in your name. In a case like this, you need to be vigilant. If your spouse fails to abide by their court-ordered debt obligations it can spell disaster for your credit. An attorney can help you use contempt of court procedures to take swift action and compel the other spouse to do what they’re required.
Talk To Orlando Family Team About Your Marital Debt
We want your divorce to be as much of a fresh start as possible. If you have concerns about marital debt and the divorce process, count on Orlando Family Team. Give us a call today to discuss your legal options and get started on your case.