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Woman Bill Anxiety

Debt and divorce: What are you responsible for?

When marriages in Illinois end in divorce, there are often a lot of changes that the couple must make to their finances in order to separate completely. The law requires that all marital assets be subject to property division, but many people do not know that all debts are divided as well. Once debts are assigned to each spouse, it is his or her responsibility to pay for those debts, however, failing to do so does not always mean that the other spouse is off the hook.

During the course of most marriages, many couples incur a significant amount of debt. As a result, it is not always easy to decide which spouse will pay for what debt without the assistance of the courts. Unless a couple can amicably come up with a plan for paying off debt, a judge may have to assign responsibility.

How debt is divided

In Illinois, all marital debts are divided by the courts during divorceproceedings. Any debts that have been signed jointly by both spouses are considered marital debts and typically include the following:

  • Automobile loans
  • Home mortgages
  • Credit cards

Typically, a judge will assign the debt to the spouse whose name is on the account so that he or she is responsible for the debt he or she incurred during the marriage.

Missing payments

When it comes to debt and divorce, there are situations in which one spouse fails to pay the debts that have been assigned for the courts. Unfortunately, lenders are not required to abide by the terms of an Illinois divorce agreement and can begin collections against either spouse named on an account. Divorced individuals should be aware that if their ex-spouse stops making payments, the other spouse could become responsible for the delinquent payments.

Avoiding issues regarding debt

If possible, working with a spouse to pay off as much debt as possible prior to a divorce can be the best way to avoid conflict and collections. Cancelling jointly-held credit cards or deciding on how the debt will be divided together can help both spouses feel more in control of their financial situation. While there is not always a surefire way to ensure that one spouse will follow through on his or her debt responsibilities, being aware that lenders could potentially require the other spouse to pay can be a detriment against revenge spending.

Obtaining legal assistance

The division of debts can be a complicated process that can have a significant impact on the financial situation of both spouses. Many divorcing couples choose to look for legal counsel to get assistance with determining how to assign debt responsibility.


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