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Important tip: Calculate debt before getting a divorce

Dividing property is often one of the most stressful and divisive aspects of a divorce.

It can become even more stressful considering that, along with dividing their marital assets, spouses must also divide their debts. Dividing debt accrued during the marriage can be complex, but there are a few things that spouses can do to make the process easier.

Ask: Who incurred the debt?

This is an important question to answer in terms of dividing debt. Since Virginia is an equitable distribution state, spouses must divide their marital debts fairly. In most cases, this means that spouses will divide their debts based on:

  • Who accrued the debt; and
  • Whose name the debt is under.

Like all other assets, an individual remains responsible for any separate debts incurred before the marriage, such as student loan debts, or after the date of separation.

This is why it is important for individuals to carefully calculate their own expenses and liabilities - as well as those of their spouse - to ensure that they know which debts they will be responsible for after the divorce.

What about joint accounts?

Many married couples not only combine their assets and finances, but they often open joint credit card accounts as well. When spouses share joint accounts - such as a joint credit card account - they might wonder how to divide the debts tied to them.

In the case of credit card debt, spouses should:

  • Review the purchases on the account;
  • Calculate how much each spouse owes;
  • Pay off the debt; and
  • Close the joint account.

Larger debts, such as auto loans or mortgages, often require more evaluation and negotiation. It might be beneficial to consult an experienced divorce attorney when dividing larger debts like this, to ensure individuals protect their finances.

Regardless of the size of the debt, spouses should calculate their debt in preparation before the divorce, so the division process is less stressful for everyone involved.

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