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Debts and your divorce: What you need to know

Imagine your husband or wife has a shopping addiction and last year he or she put an incredible $40,000 of debt on a personal credit card. The problem is, you're now getting a divorce and realizing that even though the card was in your spouse's name, that debt will likely be considered a part of the marital estate. As such, you could be shouldering some of that debt burden after the divorce has finalized.

Determining who is responsible for what debt during the asset division process of a divorce isn't always clearcut and straightforward. Here are a few strategies that spouses employ regarding debts during a divorce:

Some spouses decide to pay off their debts before the divorce begins. Couples with considerable savings may simply use that savings to settle their debts and begin their future lives debt-free.

Some spouses use debt as a bargaining chip during a divorce. For example, one spouse might agree to assume certain debts in exchange for getting to keep certain property during asset division.

Many spouses simply agree to split their debt 50-50. This could be a difficult decision to make, however, if most of the debt has been caused by a spouse with a spending problem. It will be even more difficult to accept this arrangement if your spouse's spending problem was the reason for the divorce in the first place.

The above strategies might not be appropriate -- or legally fair -- for all spouses. If you feel that your spouse irresponsibly incurred debt in a way that was unjust or unfair to you during your marriage, you might be able to fight in court so you don't have to take on some of this debt. At our website, you can learn more about divorce, asset division and other areas of California family law.

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