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Do You Have to Pay the Debts That Your Ex Racked Up During the Marriage?


Debt is becoming as universal as death and taxes, and it is a major source of marital conflict, sometimes even before the marriage begins.  The ubiquity of student loan debt among people who have graduated from college in the last two decades is a factor in the trend in which people are getting married later or not at all.  Student loan debt has also led to a rise in the prevalence of prenuptial agreements.  Instead of promising their betrothed that they will not make them pay alimony, each spouse promises that, if the couple part ways, each spouse takes their own premarital debt with them.  In the absences of a prenuptial agreement, the court must decide how to divide the couple’s assets, as well as their debts.  Unless one spouse incurred the debt by nefarious means or for nefarious purposes (the legal term for this is “misconduct”), the debts are considered marital debts, and each spouse is responsible for paying his or her fair share of them.  If the debts incurred by your ex are a point of contention in your divorce, contact a South Florida divorce lawyer.

Details of the Mills Case

Barry Mills was a serial entrepreneur, and his wife Brenda stayed by his side during his successful and unsuccessful business ventures.  In 2007, Barry and several partners embarked on a project that Brenda found too risky, even for a serial entrepreneur like Barry: they tried to found a startup bank.  To raise his share of the capital for the project, Barry needed a $100,000 home equity loan on the couple’s house, but Brenda refused to sign for it.  Barry forged Brenda’s signature on the loan application and went ahead with the project.  The state of Florida rejected the bank’s application for a charter, so the bank never opened.  Barry lost $245,000 in the venture, and he used his savings to repay the home equity loan.  Brenda did not find out that Barry had taken out the loan until the bank called her and threatened to take away the couple’s house.

Brenda and Barry divorced in 2016 after 37 years of marriage, and in dividing their marital property, the court classified the home equity loan as a marital liability, since it had been borrowed during the marriage.  Brenda requested that it be reclassified as a non-marital liability, since Barry had only obtained it by deception, which she argued was misconduct.  The court granted her request and reclassified the loan as a non-marital liability belonging to Barry, so Brenda was no longer obligated to make payments on it from the money awarded to her in the divorce.

Let Us Help You Today

Even if your ex-spouse ruined your finances while you were married, your ex’s financial mistakes should not continue to follow you around even after you divorce, especially if your ex lied to you about money throughout your marriage.  Contact the Boca Raton divorce lawyers at Schwartz | White about your divorce case.


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