Marital debts, just like marital assets, are fairly divided between spouses during a divorce. Because Washington is a community property state, all income, property, and debts that either spouse acquires during the marriage belongs to the marital estate, and must be split relatively equally between the spouses.
The responsibility for a marital debt can be given to one person or the other regardless of whose name the debt is under. If the debt was incurred during the marriage and for the benefit of the marriage, it can be assigned to either spouse. However, this assignment does not change the agreement that a person had with his or her creditors. Even though one spouse may be required to pay a debt under the divorce decree, the person or entity that is owed money can collect that debt from whomever signed the contract.
If your spouse has an obligation to pay a debt and doesn’t, you may be able to force him or her into compliance with the divorce decree. For instance, you could file a motion with the court, asking the judge to find your former spouse in contempt. This may result in the divorce court ordering your ex to either pay the debt or face serious consequences, like wage garnishment or jail time. Alternatively, you could file a lawsuit against your former spouse seeking damages for his or her failure to obey the order.
While your spouse may have the legal responsibility to pay off a particular debt, that responsibility should also be weighed against the amount of damage that debt is doing to your credit score. It may be better to pay a debt that you do not owe to keep the account current while pursuing a legal remedy against your former spouse.
Fairly and accurately dividing property and debts in a divorce case often requires the help of a skilled Washington family law attorney. The attorneys at Pacific Northwest Family Law have many techniques at their disposal to help divorcing couples split marital property in an equitable way, and achieve great successes using mediation, collaboration, and other dispute resolution methods.
To schedule a consultation and learn more about your rights and options when it comes to marital debt, contact our office today by calling 509-572-3700.