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Do I have to pay my spouse’s debts if we divorce?

On Behalf of | May 8, 2023 | Divorce

One of the most complicated aspects of property division during a California divorce is dividing up debts. If you have not yet filed for divorce, it might be best to try to pay off as much of your debt as possible before filing for divorce to make the process less complicated.

However, this is not always a realistic option. You may have several debts between you and your spouse that must be addressed in your divorce.

It is important to know that only marital debt gets divided in a divorce. This means that if your spouse had debt before the marriage, that debt remains theirs after the divorce.

Community property

Marital debt is debt that is acquired during the marriage. California is a community property state when it comes to divorce, which means that you and your spouse jointly own all assets and debts that you accumulated during your marriage.

The idea behind community property laws is that the property and debt that you acquire while you are married is part of your marriage “community.”

Therefore, if a credit card account was opened while you were married, but only your spouse’s name was put on the card, the account could still be considered community property and you may be ordered to pay some or all of it.

A court’s overall goal with property division is an equitable split of all community property. In the above example, if the credit card was the only marital debt you had, you would likely not be ordered to pay the entire credit card balance.

What debts are not community property?

There are some exceptions to the community property rule. A spouse who incurs debts for negative reasons might be solely responsible for those debts. Examples of these include gambling debts or drug debts.

Everyone’s situation is different, so it is important to know how California’s community property laws apply to your divorce.