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How is Joint Debt Handled in an Illinois Divorce?

DuPage County Divorce Attorneys

In an Illinois divorce, the couple's assets are divided equitably. This means that instead of being split 50/50, they are divided among the partners according to each partner's personal needs and contributions to the couple's asset pool. Their debts, which can include their mortgage debt, their credit card debt, and any student debt accrued during the marriage, are also divided this way. This is because any financial transactions made during the marriage, other than a few key exceptions, are considered to be made by both parties. Purchases made this way are deemed to be marital property and debts accrued this way are marital debt.

In most divorces, the division of assets is the most substantial part of the process. Educate yourself about how your debt will be handled before you begin the divorce process so you do not face any surprises.

Examples of Marital Debt

Any debt accrued during your marriage is considered to be marital debt, unless there is documentation in place excusing one spouse from it. For example, if one partner is a business owner and specified in the couple's prenuptial agreement that any debt accrued for the operation of the business belongs solely to him or her, that debt remains solely his or her responsibility. Any debt accrued before entering the marriage, such as student loan debt, is solely the responsibility of its holder.

You might have one or more of the following types of debt to consider as part of your asset and debt division during your divorce:

  • Medical bill debt,
  • Mortgage debt;
  • Investment debt;
  • Student debt;
  • Debt related to the operation of a small business;
  • Vehicle debt; and
  • Credit card debt.

Even if the debt is for an item or investment used by only one spouse, such as the loan on the husband's vehicle or student loan debt for the wife's education, debt accrued during a marriage is marital debt.

Dividing Debt in Divorce

Because the couple's assets are divided equitably, the court will often try to balance assets with debts so neither spouse completes the process facing a debt burden that he or she cannot handle. For example, if one spouse receives a larger portion of the couple's savings, he or she may also be given a larger portion of their debt load.

Consider trying to reduce the amount of debt you have prior to starting the divorce process. Work with your spouse to pay off your outstanding credit card bills and discuss your plans for the substantial debts you face, such as your mortgage debt or a small business loan. You might consider selling your home and splitting the profits in your divorce as a way to avoid saddling one partner with the responsibility of paying for and maintaining the household. You might also consider each transferring half of your marital credit card debt to an individual account so you have one less issue to work through in court.

What if my Spouse Concealed Debt?

In couples where one partner handles all the finances, it is not uncommon for there to be debt that the other spouse is not aware of. Although you may be held liable for this debt, if it comes as a surprise to you, you may be able to prove this to the court and have it all assigned to your partner. Talk to your attorney about strategies to accomplish this if you suddenly find yourself facing a substantial debt obligation when your finances are examined as part of the divorce process. You may be able to demonstrate that your spouse took on the debt without your knowledge or consent and that he or she used it for purposes that did not benefit your marriage or family, such as nights out with an adulterous partner.

Work with an Experienced DuPage County Family Law Firm

Debt can be a difficult subject to broach, especially when you are going through the divorce process. But in order to make the process as painless as possible, you need to toss your reservations aside and be willing to discuss your entire financial situation, debt and all, with your lawyer and other professionals who may be involved in the process, like a financial adviser. To begin your discussions with an experienced DuPage family lawyer, contact The Stogsdill Law Firm, P.C. at 630-462-9500.

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