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Can I Be Stuck With My Ex-Spouse's Debt After Divorce?
There are four main areas of divorce in Georgia: child custody, child support, alimony and equitable division. For many couples, the two main issues of their divorce tend to be child custody (if children are involved) and the division of assets and debt. Although many are unaware of this fact, not only must marital property be separated upon divorce, but marital debts must be divided and apportioned between the couple as well.
During a Georgia divorce, a couple may either reach a settlement agreement concerning how marital debts is to be divided or the marital debt may be divided by the presiding court in the Final Order and Decree of Divorce. To be deemed marital debt, generally the debt must have been acquired by both spouses jointly during the marriage. See Cormier v. Cormier, 280 Ga. 693 (2006). Although a settlement agreement or Final Order may set out which spouse is responsible for satisfying a certain marital debt upon divorce, if the debts were jointly incurred, both parties ultimately remain responsible for them.
What this means practically is that if the spouse assigned responsibility for paying a particular debt fails to satisfy it, the creditor may still go after the other spouse for payment. Thus, the short answer to the question posed is: yes, unless you take the steps necessary to limit your exposure. Some steps you can take to protect yourself are listed below.
- Close any joint credit card accounts or other joint accounts as soon as a divorce is pending or imminent if it is possible to do so without violating any standing order in place.
- If it is not possible to close an account, notify your joint creditors of the divorce action in writing and advise them that you will not be responsible for any additional debts incurred by your spouse beyond the current outstanding balances.
Finally, if your court order or settlement agreement requires your wife to satisfy your joint MasterCard debt and she fails to do so, you may sue your ex-wife or initiate a contempt proceeding against her if the credit card company attempts to collect the debt from you. For more information regarding the division of debt in Georgia divorce matters, or specific information on how Georgia’s equitable division laws may affect your divorce, contact our team of Atlanta divorce lawyers.