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Are you legally responsible for your spouse’s debt upon divorce?

On Behalf of | Jan 3, 2024 | Divorce

A pressing question that often arises during divorce is whether you are legally obligated to pay your spouse’s debts after parting ways. The answer to that largely depends on various factors, such as the nature of the debts and the circumstances surrounding their acquisition.

First, it helps to note that marriage does not automatically tag you with your spouse’s debts. If your spouse had financial obligations before the marriage, you are not legally responsible for those debts. However, the debt you incurred as a couple must be divided when you part ways. 

How marital debt is divided in New Jersey

Marital debt is divided equitably in New Jersey. Such division aims to achieve fairness rather than equality, and you could end up bearing more or less of the marital debt when the divorce is settled. Some of the factors that may come into play include:

  • The length of the marriage
  • The economic circumstances of each spouse (income, debts, liabilities and earning capacity)
  • The age and health of each spouse
  • Any written, valid and enforceable agreement concerning debt division, like a prenup
  • Other factors the court deems relevant to achieve an equitable division

It‘s important to note that while you may not be legally responsible for your spouse’s debts, their separate financial obligations can influence how marital debt will be divided. Additionally, you may still be liable for the debts assigned to your spouse if your name appears on the debt contract or if they are held jointly.

Seeking legal assistance can provide clarity and strategic guidance during the debt division process, ensuring you do not bear more financial burden than necessary. It can also help protect you from undue liabilities that could impact your financial security when the dust settles.