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Can You be Held Responsible for Your Spouse's Debt?

The distribution of marital property is a key issue that comes up in divorce proceedings. Illinois is an "equitable distribution" state, which means marital property is not necessarily divided in half, but rather in a way that is "fair and equitable." 

The first step in determining which party is responsible for paying off debt is to determine whether the debt is marital or non-marital. Marital debt is debt acquired by the parties during the course of the marriage. This debt includes but is not limited to residential mortgages, car loans, and credit card debt. It does not matter whose name is on the debt. However, the important distinction is what the debt was used for, and whether it benefitted the marital estate.

Student Loan Debt and Marital Assets

Many people today find themselves owing significant amounts in student loan debt. Whether or not this is considered marital debt depends on the circumstances surrounding the loan. If the loan was solely used for tuition related expenses, there is a stronger argument for non-marital debt. If it was used for the living expenses of both parties, it could be considered marital debt.

Timing also plays a factor. Debt acquired shortly before the divorce is more likely considered individual debt. This is because the marital estate did not have time to benefit from the loan. On the other hand, if both parties benefitted from increased income and a higher standard of living, then the loan could be considered marital debt.

For example, one spouse receives an advanced degree, which results in increased income that is used to support the family. It is likely that in this case the loan repayment will now be considered the responsibility of both parties as the degree has now benefited both parties. Lastly, the court will consider the income potential of each party. If the spouse not responsible for loan repayment has minimal income potential, he or she is less likely to be held responsible for someone else's debt.

Student loan debt attained prior to marriage and following the judgment for dissolution of marriage, is considered non-marital debt. The individual debt holder would be responsible for this debt.

Contact a Skilled Divorce Attorney Today

Debt acquired during the course of your marriage could impact your individual credit and result in financial hardship long after the divorce proceedings. If you or your spouse have acquired significant debt during the course of your marriage, you need to speak with an experienced DuPage County divorce attorney right away to assess how this debt could affect the marital estate. Call The Stogsdill Law Firm, P.C. today at 630-462-9500 to schedule a consultation.


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The Stogsdill Law Firm, P.C.
1776 S. Naperville Road - Building B, Suite 202
Wheaton, IL 60189

Phone: 630-690-6077
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