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Are you responsible for your ex-spouse’s debt?

Debt is not something people like to talk about. Even though it is a reality for almost everyone across the country, it is a personal matter that many people prefer to keep private.

However, there are times when individuals must address debt openly and honestly. One of those times is if spouses face a divorce. In the event of a divorce, spouses must divide their property – but many wonder: do they have to divide their debts too?

Yes, ex-spouses often share the liability to pay debt

Illinois law specifically states that any debts accrued between the day a couple married and the day they filed for divorce are subject to division under equitable distribution guidelines. Even if the debt is only in one spouse’s name, if they acquire this debt during the marriage it is marital property.

Therefore, an individual could be responsible for paying some of their spouse’s debts in some cases. Family courts will consider several factors when dividing liability to pay for marital debt, including:

  • Each spouse’s income
  • Each spouse’s financial circumstances
  • Which spouse accumulated the majority of the debt

Family courts strive for a fair arrangement and division of debt. Spouses can determine their own agreement if they wish, but Illinois family courts often must still approve it.

This is why spouses must calculate their debt before the divorce

There are many bills to pay, from the mortgage to the monthly credit card bill. This can make it complicated to determine the total amount of debt one owes. Even so, it is critical for spouses to consider and calculate:

  • The debts they owe;
  • Their spouse’s debts; and
  • The debts they hold in both their names.

Dividing debt in the divorce process can be complex, but if individuals assess all of their debts, they can facilitate the procedure of property division. As we have discussed in previous blog posts, taking time to establish a pre-divorce financial plan – including a valuation of the debts spouses must pay – is critical to protect one’s financial health after the divorce.