Married couples typically share everything from their meals to their retirement savings. They can achieve a much higher standard of living by combining their resources and maintaining one joint household.
Of course, even with two streams of income, many married couples require credit to maintain their preferred lifestyle. Credit cards, vehicle loans and even student loans taken on during a marriage can consume a significant portion of the household’s monthly revenue. Debt payments can reduce a household’s standard of living or even result in bitterness when one spouse caused the debt.
The same rules apply to debts as to assets
When it comes to property division, the rule on the books in Alabama requires the equitable distribution of marital property and debts. The courts should strive to set terms that are fair and appropriate given not only the resources shared by the spouses but other marital factors, like their unpaid contributions to the household, their health and even how long the marriage lasted.
When determining what debts are subject to division, the major concern is usually when someone acquired the debt. However, the intention of the debt is also important. Most debts accumulated during the marriage are subject to division even if they are only in the name of one spouse. However, debts taken on in secret or while conducting activities that undermine the marital relationship, like an affair, might not be subject to division.
Judges have the authority to order each spouse to pay certain debts or to award one spouse sole responsibility for most debts because they earn more money. It is important for people to understand that a family court order to pay a debt does not always mean that someone will, and so negotiating specific solutions for debts might be preferable to simply trying to avoid responsibility for them in the divorce.
Understanding what rules generally apply to marital debts can help those preparing to discuss property division with their spouse via negotiation or a judge as a result of a contested divorce process.