Often during a divorce, you focus on splitting assets, settling custody agreements, and other hot-button issues. Yet, the question of debt is often left unasked until the very end, which can be detrimental to both parties. Sometimes one partner unwittingly takes on all debt from the marriage. When this happens, the other party may say they will pay their half, but this is hardly a legally-binding statement. What debt is your responsibility during a divorce? Let’s find out.
Different Kinds of Debt
Generally speaking, the two types of debt included in a divorce are communal property and living expenses. Living expenses are self-explanatory: necessities like food, utilities, and the like, fall into this category. Anything extra, like a boat or new gadgets, is considered communal. This can become extremely confusing when both kinds of debt are on the same account. It can be even worse if there was debt before marriage, then more was added on during the relationship.
In communal states, debts and assets are shared equally. For instance, if the husband bought an RV and didn’t tell the wife, and the wife’s name was not on the loan, she would probably still owe half the debt for said RV. Luckily, Ohio is not one of those states.
How Ohio Courts Handle Debt
Many states will divide debt down the middle, or close to it. Others, like Ohio, split debt on a case-by-case basis. There is no set law in place to dictate how debts should be handled. Rather, the court uses its best judgment. It generally goes down in one of four ways:
- Based on each individual’s income
- Based on whose name the debt is under
- Based on who actually incurred the debt
Because of this, splitting debt can lead to many legal battles, over many years. It can also lead to one party being unfairly burdened with the other’s debt and unable to pay for it.
Debt Left Unpaid
If one partner cannot pay the debt, or simply refuses to do so, a few things may happen. Creditors are not picky when it comes to getting their money back. If the account was joint when it was first opened and now your ex is responsible for it, creditors may come after you if it isn’t paid. If this happens, it is important to take it up with the courts. Let them know the situation, and they will enforce the divorce agreement.
The last resort should be bankruptcy. If you and/or your partner is unable to make their debt payments, filing for bankruptcy can get the creditors off your back. It will not eliminate all debts, though, and it will leave a black mark on your credit for a long time.
Divorce Attorney in Ohio
If you need to get a divorce or need help splitting assets and debt, the Laubacher & Co. family law firm can help. Our experienced attorneys have helped many, many couples in Cleveland get through this often-difficult process. For more information or a free consultation, contact us today.