How is debt split in a Washington divorce?

On Behalf of | Mar 16, 2022 | Family Law |

Many Washington couples don’t think about how to handle debt in their marriage, which can lead to some complicated situations in a divorce. While everyone is quick to claim certain assets, no one thinks about who gets settled with the debt that was acquired during the marriage.

What is the goal when splitting debt in a divorce?

The court will look at several different factors when trying to split debt in a divorce, such as individual financial situation and who had a larger hand in accruing the debt during the marriage. Some states go by the “community property” rule, which says that debt should be split 50/50. While it might seem reasonable to split the debt 50/50 between the divorcing couple, that might not be an equitable solution.

If one person worked while the other was a stay-at-home parent, then the stay-at-home parent may have no way to pay back 50% of the debt. That’s why the court looks at the individual’s ability to pay back the debt as well as support themselves using “common law division.”

What are the different types of debt that the court will look at?

Generally, the court looks at all debt that was incurred jointly, such as mortgage debt, auto loan debt, credit card and medical debt. However, if a case can be made that one person was solely responsible for racking up debt on a specific card or if only one person’s name is on the loan, the court may take that into consideration.

What if the ex refuses to pay the debt?

In a not-so-amicable divorce, a person could be worried about their ex-spouse not paying back the joint debt they’re responsible for. There should be a contingency plan to address this scenario if it happens, but one of the easiest ways to avoid having to split up debt is to pay it down before the divorce.