What to Do With Your Marital Debt

The end of a marriage is an emotionally overwhelming time. To make things more difficult, divorce is also usually one of the most financially difficult times for any person going through a divorce. Although in the past you and your spouse have been able to rely on each other for financial support and dividing all debt responsibility, after the divorce, you will both have to figure out how to manage your own finances without the benefit of a second income. In New Jersey, all marital debt is subject to “equitable distribution.” This means that debt is not automatically subject to an equal division. To decide what is an “equitable” (meaning fair) distribution, the court will first have to determine when the debt was incurred and for what purpose. If the debt was incurred during the marriage, it is likely a marital debt. This is true even if the debt is only in the name of one party. When faced with the issue of what to do with marital debt, you may have several options.

When deciding how to dispose of your marital debt, you should first make sure that the debt is actually a marital debt. If you do not have access to particular debt records, such as a credit card held solely in your spouse’s name, you should not agree to take on any portion of the debt until you can obtain access to the debt records and see how much of the debt was incurred during the marriage. Moreover, you will want to make sure the debt was incurred for valid marital purposes. These could include such things as bills, clothes, or cost of home improvement projects. Costs that are not included would be such things as vacations taken with a new boyfriend or girlfriend.

Once you have determined what is included in your marital debt, you will need to divide that debt. This does not mean, however, that you both have to be responsible for exactly half of each debt. For example, you and your spouse could each agree to take responsibility for one credit card, assuming both have an approximately equal amount of debt. Alternatively, one person could agree to take on a disproportionately large amount of debt in exchange for also receiving a large portion of the marital assets. This type of arrangement works particularly well where the person agreeing to take most of the debt has a much larger earning capacity, allowing him or her the freedom timely make the payments required on those debts.

If you have questions about how to divide your marital debt, call us today for an appointment at (732) 529-6937. We in helping our clients with determining a fair and appropriate way to divide marital debt in such a way to help you move forward with your future after divorce.

About the Author


John Nachlinger is a co-founder and managing attorney of Netsquire, a family law firm focused on streamlining divorces through effective mediation, settlement drafting, and court filing assistance. As a New Jersey Supreme Court Certified Matrimonial Law Attorney and Qualified Mediator, John guides couples toward equitable agreements without the cost and stress of litigation.

Recognized as a New Jersey Super Lawyer for over a decade, John’s client-focused approach aims to foster understanding during challenging transitions. With a background spanning top law journals, judicial clerkships, and boutique family law firms, John now applies his analytical skills to create workable solutions for all parties. His mediation services reshape the divorce journey by prioritizing compassion and compromise.

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