Will I Have to Pay for My Spouse’s Debt in Our Divorce?

Traditional marriage vows include for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer. The concept carries over into a divorce as you will not just have the right to certain assets from your marriage. You will also be responsible for a fair share of the debt.

Negotiating how to divide marital debt can be an emotional aspect of divorce. If negotiations break down and the question must be brought before a judge, New York follows the doctrine of equitable distribution.

What Is Equitable Distribution?

New York is one of the 41 states that follow equitable distribution guidelines where the judge determines what is fair based on certain criteria. The other 9 states are called community property states where debt and assets are divided 50/50. Equitable distribution doesn’t necessarily follow an even split. The goal of this method is to make as fair a split as possible. Fairness does not always mean equal.

Only debt and assets acquired during the marriage are subject to equitable distribution while each party retains the separate property they owned before the marriage. There are exceptions, of course, but that is generally true.

Determining what is truly separate vs. marital (joint) property is no easy task. The longer the marriage, the more assets, the more debt, and the higher the net worth, the more complex that is. Once the arduous chore is complete in a litigated New York divorce, the judge gets to work determining how to divvy up assets and debt.

The judge will consider many factors, including the following:

  • Age of each spouse
  • Health of each spouse
  • Current and future earning potential of each spouse
  • The extent each spouse contributed to acquiring marital property
  • The value of each spouse’s separate property
  • How each spouse supported the other’s education and earning potential
  • Spousal support obligations
  • Child support obligations

If you make substantially more, a judge might assign you responsible for more of the debt. In the eyes of the court, that could seem fair even if your ex made the purchase.

Fairness in a Negotiated Settlement

At the Law Office of Dennis R. Vetrano, Jr., LLC, we have seen how a skillfully negotiated property and debt settlement can be reached outside of the courtroom. Through alternative dispute resolution methods like mediation and collaborative divorce, even unfriendly spouses can come to a compromise without a judge’s intervention.

Negotiation can generate unique and creative solutions that work for a specific marriage. Negotiated settlements also have greater compliance because both sides can feel heard and recognized. They have a direct hand in the creation of the agreement, not forced into something by the courts.

There are situations where collaborative divorce, mediation, or other negotiation doesn’t work. These are the divorce cases that should go to trial. If you believe your divorce is bound for litigation, our attorneys are confident in the courtroom and zealously advocate for your best interests.

Strong Legal Counsel for Marital Debt Division

How debt is divided can directly affect your life for years to come. Making a case for limiting your responsibility can help you move forward into post-divorce life.

Having an attorney knowledgeable in negotiation and litigation is critical. Our team understands how to present arguments to improve the chances of a settlement that reflects your desired outcome.

To understand more about your divorce options, schedule a consultation with one of our attorneys. Reach us by completing our online form or calling (845) 605-4330.

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