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What happens to debt in a divorce?

On Behalf of | Sep 12, 2023 | Divorce

Property division is one of the most complicated pieces of most Mississippi divorces. Mississippi law states that marital property must be divided equitably, which means fairly. Marital property includes both assets and debt.

If you are like most married couples, you probably have a mix of different debts. Some of them you may have had before you got married, while some are your spouses, and some are debts you took on together during your marriage.

Marital and separate property

The first step in determining what happens to your debt in a divorce is classifying the total debt between you and your spouse as marital or separate property.

Debt that a spouse had before they got married is generally considered separate property. This means it is not included in the total amount of debt that must be divided.

The exception to this is if the debt is mixed with marital debt while you are married.

For example, suppose you had a credit card in your name before you got married with a $10,000 balance on it. If you do not charge anything additional on this card while you are married, the $10,000, or whatever remains of it, will likely be labeled separate property.

This means you are responsible for paying that debt. However, if you and your spouse used that card for purchases during your marriage, this marital debt has now mixed with your prior debt. This converts the entire amount to marital debt which must be divided.

What equitable distribution means

Once you have your total amount of marital debt, it is divided fairly. This does not necessarily mean equally.

Using the above example, if you did take on $10,000 worth of debt from your separate credit card, a court might order that your spouse is responsible for a higher share of the marital debt to achieve a fair outcome.

Other things a court could consider are who is better able to pay the debt, or what the debt was for.

Learning about how the property division laws apply to your situation is important. You have a better chance of obtaining a divorce outcome you are happy with.