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Law Office of Gary R. Swavely, Jr. Blog

Monday, February 27, 2017

What can I do about the debt my spouse is incurring during our separation?

Going through a divorce can be a messy process. Court days and fees for attorneys can take a toll, and the whole process is often emotionally draining for everyone involved. It can be very difficult to unwind the shared assets and finances a couple spent time building up.

Most people are aware that the divorce process is going to include the division of assets and debt in some way. Judges do not have the insight into your marriage that you did, so it is important to work with an experienced divorce lawyer as you go through the process.

What Is The Law?

Pennsylvania is known as an equitable distribution state, which means a judge will examine a couple’s assets, property and debts, and divide them in a way which they see as fair if you are not able to work out an agreement with your spouse.

However, this does not mean everything will be divided equally, which can pose a problem if there is debt. It can get especially tricky if your spouse keeps accruing debt when the separation is going on.

Pennsylvania divorce law does stipulate that if a date of separation was established, a cut-off date then has been established for the accumulation of marital debt. Generally, any debt accrued during a separation is the sole responsibility of the person who accrued it.

The laws and legal stipulations can be murky, and some creditors and agencies may still consider the debt jointly owned. They might take action against both parties if they deem necessary, especially if a credit or debit card is in both people’s names.

What Can I Do To Protect Myself?

If you are proactive, there are some steps you can take to protect yourself.

1. Speak with an experienced family lawyer to determine your plan of action. Since Pennsylvania is a common law property state, each person is accountable for individual debts, but joint debts are divided.

However, there are some exceptions for debts which are considered to ‘benefit the family’, like purchasing a car seat. In addition, debt that is accrued to maintain a joint property can also be shared.

2. Take an inventory of your property and any sort of financial records, especially papers concerning payment, taxes and any loans. This will help a family lawyer make a decision on assets and debts, and help them save time on research costs as they prepare a case

3. Remove your name from any shared or joint accounts. Credit card agreements sometimes have stipulations in the terms of service that gives them the power to sue even if a formal divorce decree is in place.

Even if some debt is not yours, if your name is on the loan or a bank/credit card, you can be held liable.

Worried About During Your Divorce?

If you are thinking about divorce, talking with an experienced divorce attorney can help you protect your rights and provide you with peace of mind. Mr. Swavely has over 25 years of experience assisting clients through the divorce process. Request a consultation or call today at (610) 816-6366.


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