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Does marital debt disappear during divorce?

On Behalf of | May 20, 2021 | Family Law |

No matter how long a couple has been married, they will have to divide their marital assets during divorce. However, people in Missouri often forget that joint property is about more than what they own — it also includes what they owe. Marital debt can be a complicated matter to address, so it is important that one understands the implications of doing so.

What is joint debt?

Besides a few exceptions, any property that a couple acquired during marriage is considered joint marital property, including any debt. Even if one spouse took out a credit card in just his or her name and then was the only one who used it, the outstanding balance would still be considered a marital debt. Here are a few other examples of marital debt:

  • Mortgages
  • Auto loans
  • Personal loans

Who pays back the debt?

When it comes to a credit card debt in just one person’s name, it is possible that either spouse will be assigned the responsibility of paying it off. The downfall to giving that debt to the person who is not listed on the account is that he or she might not feel the full repercussions of lapsing in payments, while the other person will. Things get a little more complicated when it comes to secured debts.

A secured debt is a debt that is secured by a physical piece of property, such as a vehicle or a home. Whoever gets a jointly owned vehicle will most likely take on the responsibility of paying off the remaining auto loan. If a home is jointly owned, the spouse who keeps the house will need to secure a mortgage in his or her own name. A divorcing couple might also choose to sell the home, pay off the remaining mortgage and split any resulting profit.

Missouri is an equitable distribution state, which means that property gets divided fairly — not necessarily equally — during divorce. This means that it is possible for one person to end up having to pay back a larger portion of the marital debt. To better ensure that neither party ends up with more debt than they can reasonably pay back, it may be wise to speak with an attorney who is knowledgeable in family law.