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Debt and Divorce: Which of Your Spouse’s Debts Are You Legally Required to Pay?

There are many frustrating, confusing, and difficult aspects of divorce. Determining who is responsible for paying off debt is one of them. In California, we are a community property state. That means that, for the most part, any debt incurred during the marriage belongs to both parties – but it is not that simple.

At The Law Offices of Paul Y. Lee we are bankruptcy attorneys who can help you understand your options. We are not family law attorneys but we can help you get the basics of community property, what debt is yours, and what type of bankruptcy may work best if that is the decision you make. Call us now at 888-748-0025 for a free consultation.

Almost All Property Acquired During Your Marriage Will Be Considered Community Property

With very few exceptions, any wages, benefits, or property acquired during a marriage are going to be considered community property – and that includes debts too. On the other hand, what each spouse brings to the marriage remains their own property. Likewise, a gift or inheritance received during the marriage can be considered the separate property of the person who received it.

Your Wages Could Be Garnished to Pay Your Spouse’s Debts

If your spouse has debts that they do not pay, the creditor can legally garnish your wages to get them paid. This is true even if your spouse had that debt before you were married. Unlike property, the debt each spouse brings into the marriage is then owned collectively – in most cases.

There is one big exception. If you have your own, separate bank account to which only you have access to, then the premarital debts of your spouse cannot be garnished from that account. This is something you may wish to talk to an accountant about to determine how to best protect your cash.

You and Your Spouse Can Come to a Different Agreement

If your prenuptial or post-nuptial agreement says something about the debt situation, then that is likely what will be followed. You and your spouse could also come to an understanding on your own. We strongly recommend that you get this in writing and assure it is in the divorce decree. If it is not, they could change their mind at any time and you would be responsible for the debt.

Are You Facing High Debt? Bankruptcy May Be the Best Option

Depending on the specifics of your situation, it may be that bankruptcy is the best way for you to move forward. If you are curious about bankruptcy options and the advantages of each, we welcome your call to The Law Offices of Paul Y. Lee at 888-748-0025. We can start with a free consultation so you can better understand your legal options.