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What happens to a couple’s debt when they divorce?

If divorce is something you see in your future, chances are you have thought of having to split assets with your spouse.

What many couples fail to think about prior to filing for divorce is the debt they accumulate both individually and as a pair. Here is some basic information on how courts in California view debt when marriages end.

Community debt

In most cases, community debt equates to any financial obligation incurred after the union and before the separation. These debts include those entered into by only one spouse at any time during the marriage.

Separate debt

Generally speaking, separate debts are those incurred either before the wedding or after the separation. So, any debt you alone brought to the marriage or you took on after separating will likely remain yours to pay off.

Date of separation

Establishing the date of separation can wind up more complicated than one would believe. Before finalizing the terms of a divorce, the court must determine the legal date of separation. To do so, in California judges use a two-part test consisting of:

  1. Physical separation; this can include sleeping in separate spaces in one residence in addition to residing in separate homes.
  2. Intent to end the marriage by at least one spouse. This means more than a trial separation and a definite desire to permanently dissolve the union.

In marriage, you agree to share everything, including your financial obligations. Remember this as you begin your journey toward divorce and prepare yourself mentally and financially to the best of your ability.



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