If you and your spouse have a lot of debt, you’ll need to come to an agreement about how that debt will be paid before the dissolution of your marriage can be finalized.

Before a court will finalize a Massachusetts divorce, the parties to the divorce must reach a resolution about a myriad of issues, including where any shared children will live and what the rights of the other parent will be, whether or not alimony will be part of the divorce settlement, how property will be divided, and more. Additionally, the couple must make a decision about how any debts will be paid off. For help understanding how a court makes a determination about liability for debts incurred during a marriage, reach out to Massachusetts divorce lawyer Heather M. Ward. 

Sole vs. Joint Debts in a Divorce

One of the first things that you’ll need to clarify when dividing debts in a divorce is to whom each debt in your marriage belongs and how the court views each spouse’s obligation to pay off debts. 

  • Sole debts. Sole debts refer to debts that are incurred by only one spouse, such as a credit card that is only in one spouse’s name. However, don’t be fooled into thinking that just because the debt is in your spouse’s name, you won’t be held liable for it; if the debt was incurred during the course of the marriage, it may be considered marital debt. This means that you could be held equitably responsible for the debt. 
  • Joint debt. Joint debt is debt that is incurred during the course of the marriage, such as a mortgage, car loan, credit card bill, etc. Joint debt (and marital debt, even if that debt is in one spouse’s name only) must be divided equitably amongst spouses.

What About Debt Incurred Prior to the Marriage?  

There are a few types of debt that may truly belong solely to one spouse. If a debt was incurred by only one spouse prior to entering the marriage, such as student loan debt, then the other spouse may have no liability for this debt at the time of a divorce. Just like separate assets, separate debts are typically not eligible for division at the time of divorce. 

Reaching a Resolution About the Division of Marital Debts

When there are debts in a marriage, both parties must make a full disclosure to the other about those debts. Parties are encouraged to work together to reach an agreement about how to divide debts; if no agreement can be reached, then the parties will need to turn to the court. In most cases, asking the court to decide the matter is not only more time-consuming, but also more expensive than reaching a resolution through mediation. If the court is tasked with making a determination, it must divide debts in a manner that is equitable.

Call our Massachusetts Divorce Lawyer Today
If you have questions about marital debts and divorce, please reach out to the office of Heather Ward Law for a consultation with an experienced Massachusetts divorce lawyer. You can reach Attorney Heather Ward online or by phone at (617) 903-8955 today.