Is My Ex Spouse’s Debt My Responsibility?

Whether you are liable for your ex spouse’s debts largely is reliant on whether you are filing for divorce in a community property or equitable distribution state. California is a “community property” state. Typically, assets and debts acquired by either spouse during marriage belong to both spouses. Unless there was an agreement on the division of marital property, also known as a prenuptial agreement, the court will order that community property is divided equally between both parties. The goal in dividing assets and debts is equal division. However, in the situation community debts exceeds the value of community assets, the law allows courts to order unequal division of debts by assigning excess debts to the spouse who is in a better financial situation to pay them. You can find a lot of information when it comes to community property and division of marital property and debts, but unique cases and subtle variations in how these are treated as joint and separate debts are best answered by your Kern County Family Law Attorneys. Experienced Bakersfield divorce lawyers will answer your questions on community property, and help you navigate which debts are community debts and which are separate.

In community property states, like California, most debts incurred by either spouse during the marriage are owed by the “community” (the couple), even if only one spouse signed the paperwork for the debt; the emphasis here is during the marriage. Some debts incurred before marriage while single, like a student loan, will not automatically become a community debt. An exception to this rule is if one spouse signs on to an account as a joint account holder after marriage.

After legal separation or divorce, a spouse is predominantly liable for a debt that was incurred, unless the debt was incurred for family necessities, to maintain jointly owned assets, or if the spouses have a joint account.

What property can be taken to pay debts? Creditors in community property states can go after the income and assets of the couple in order to make good on joint debts. Income earned by either spouse during a marriage, as well as any property purchased with that income, is considered community property, and is equally owned by both parties. Separate property that was kept and maintained as separate, as well as gifts and inheritances received by one spouse, are the property of one spouse. If a spouse acquires any income or property before or after a divorce or permanent separation, this is also separate property. The differences between community property and separate property are simple to grasp, but deciding what debts are your responsibility to pay can be difficult. In cases like these, it is highly recommended you contact your local Bakersfield divorce lawyers to protect your rights.

Divorce can be a highly stressful time for you and your family. When it comes to handling the necessary details concerning community property, separate property, and quasi-community property, your concerns are our priority. With the family law experts at Azemika & Azemika Law, we focus on family so you can focus on your future.

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