Marital debt can be major source of conflict during divorce

Spouses typically do not plan to get divorced. However, divorce is sometimes inevitable, and the process can quickly become complicated and overwhelming. One aspect of divorce in Massachusetts that can be particularly complex is how to handle marital debt.

An important step when tackling debt during a divorce proceeding is figuring out how much debt has to be addressed. This can be done by ordering a personal credit report, which outlines what accounts a spouse has both jointly and individually. This is particularly critical for the spouse who was not responsible for writing checks and handling the finances during the marriage, as he or she may not be familiar with the couple’s financial situation.

Another important move is to remove one’s name from any joint accounts. This is a paramount step prior to signing the divorce agreement. However, for certain loans, such as a car loan, mortgage or home equity line of credit, simply removing one’s name is not sufficient to break free from these liabilities.

Just as dividing property can be challenging during divorce, dividing debt can cause major conflicts. However, if two spouses can find a way to split debts and assets in a mutually satisfactory way — for example, through divorce mediation or informal negotiations — they can avoid further court intrusion. A judge in Massachusetts will step in, however, if the spouse cannot find common ground in these areas. Unfortunately, the judge’s decision regarding assets and debts may not be what one or both of the spouses would have expected or wanted.

Source:, “Marital Debt: Who’s Responsible and How Can You Avoid Getting Screwed?” Vikki Ziegler, Nov. 7, 2017