Everyone in Washington knows that dividing assets is a big part of any divorce. What few people think about is dividing debts. In many divorces, shared debts like mortgage loans or even credit cards can become a big issue. Washington is a state that views debts accumulated during the marriage as the responsibility of both parties, regardless of whose name is on the account.
Joint liability for debts
In Washington, property and debts that pile up during a marriage are viewed as belonging to the community created by both spouses. Even if only one person accumulated $10,000 in credit card debt, both spouses will be liable for paying it off. There are some exceptions to this. If one spouse is having an affair, the money they spend on that is not considered community debt. If one spouse goes on a spending spree after the divorce paperwork has been filed, that doesn’t count as community debt either.
During the divorce, the two spouses’ attorneys may make arguments related to the debts incurred during the marriage as they attempt to negotiate the best deal for their clients. The judge, of course, has the final say. Their ruling will be put into the divorce decree, which is a binding legal document. In spite of their lawyer’s arguments, spouses may be asked to pay for debts that they didn’t personally incur. Sometimes, the judge will specify that one party is not to be held responsible for a debt.
Divorcing couples should know that creditors will not always be aware of or respect the rulings of a judge. Their objective is to get their money back, and they’ll pursue anyone listed on an account to do so. People being pursued for debts that aren’t theirs may want to consult an attorney. A family law attorney may help individuals with other aspects of divorce as well, such as child custody and alimony.