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Attorneys Vic Hill and Brad MacDonald

Getting a divorce? Don’t get saddled with your spouse’s debt.

From the stress of weathering unemployment to disagreements about how money is to be spent, financial stress is one of the most common reasons for divorce. That stress may not end with your marriage, though. If your spouse has been racking up debts, you may end up paying a share of those debts after your divorce.

Your spouse may have been hiding spending from you.

Financial infidelity is much more common than you might think — in fact, 41% of adults may be keeping the truth of their finances from their partner. If this includes their spending habits, this could have a huge impact on their spouse in divorce.

“Yours, mine and ours” includes debt.

Just like your assets, debts can be either separate or marital property. The things that were yours before your marriage are usually considered yours alone, but Georgia law regards most of the property you and your spouse accrue during your marriage as your marital property. In the same way, loans that were taken out during the course of your marriage—including student loans—will be regarded as marital debt.

With that in mind, if your spouse took out a loan, opened a credit card or racked up other debts during their marriage, you may be given a portion of that debt as part of asset division.

Commingling can make your situation more complicated.

Even if your spouse’s debt was theirs before your marriage, if they have been paying off that debt from your marital funds, it can be difficult or even impossible to trace the money that was used to pay those bills. This commingling can mean that if your spouse paid for their mortgage, student loans or credit card bills from your joint account, that debt may become marital property as a result.

A prenuptial or postnuptial agreement could be a solution.

Putting a prenup in place is one of the best ways to avoid getting stuck with your spouse’s debts. This agreement allows you to legally recognize certain assets — including your spouse’s existing debts — as separate assets if you should divorce in the future. Even if you did not make these preparations before your marriage, a postnuptial agreement can give you the same benefits even after you’ve tied the knot.