Am I Responsible for My Spouse’s Debts in a Florida Divorce?
The property division phase of a Florida divorce is easily one of the most adversarial procedures, especially when there is already a lot of friction. Some people like to hold out and dig their heels in when it comes to a particular asset. Sometimes, it’s because the item has sentimental value, while other times, it’s a matter of principle and wanting to make your ex “suffer.”
What some people don’t realize is that while they are fighting over who gets what in regard to real estate, personal property, cars, artwork, etc., the court is also looking at who gets what when it comes to marital debts.
Florida is an Equitable Distribution State
The law says that along with splitting the marital assets, you need to split the marital liabilities as well. Florida follows the legal principle of equitable distribution. It is not a community property state wherein everything is divided down the middle. Instead, equitable distribution states try to divide assets and liabilities in a fair and equitable manner. This means you could be ordered to resolve a particular debt on your own because your spouse is taking on one that is of a similar amount owed.
With community property states, any debts acquired during the marriage are suddenly owned by the couple, even in cases where only one spouse signed for the paperwork. One example is a student loan. Even if your spouse signed that loan on his or her own prior to getting married, the loan would become both of your responsibility.
In states like Florida, you would likely not be responsible for your spouse’s student loan debts incurred prior to the marriage. Typically, debts incurred before marriage are considered non-marital property and you would not be liable for them. Your Boca Raton divorce attorney can explain all the potential debts you’ll be responsible for in your divorce.
When You’re Liable for Debts
You and your spouse will be liable for any debts you entered into during the time you are married. Because Florida is not a community property state, you would have to sign an agreement in order for the court to hold you liable for any debts your ex incurred in his or her name only. So, if you have a mortgage with both names included, and/or credit card accounts, or other loans, you will both be liable, even after divorce.
Some people have asked what happens in situations where you open a join account but only one spouse uses the card. It does not typically matter, as both your names are on the account. The credit card company doesn’t care which one of you is using it, they only care about getting their money returned.
It’s important to point out that Florida courts may look for a potential dissipation of assets, where you incurred debt due to reckless behavior by your spouse. This can include hiding large cash advances, buying unreasonable things for their own benefit, or intentionally wasting money. In these cases, you may not be legally responsible for the debts.
Contact a Florida Divorce Attorney
If you have questions about the division of assets and liabilities in a Florida divorce, contact the Boca Raton divorce attorneys at the Law Offices of Schwartz | White today to schedule an initial consultation.