When a spouse accumulates debt during the marriage, it can be difficult to determine who is legally responsible for payment. Often, couples who are going through a contested divorce ask that debts be divided among the spouses. New York is an equitable distribution state, so a debt that one spouse ran up may not be the financial liability of the other spouse.
If a spouse is an account holder on a debt, he or she will typically be held responsible for it. However, if the spouse was only an authorized user on the account and lives in a non-community property estate, he or she will typically not be held liable for the debt. One option for spouses who want to avoid future problems is to have the judge order that certain debts be paid as part of the divorce settlement. The judge can consider other factors, such as property transfers or unusual expenses when deciding how to allocate assets among the two spouses.
Spouses can protect themselves from financial harm during the divorce process by making a detailed list of all accounts and debts. They should also consider running a credit check to ensure that all debts are accounted for. If approved by the family court judge, joint accounts may also need to be closed to avoid future liability.
Family law attorneys in New York may be able to provide additional advice regarding how to protect oneself financially during the divorce process. An attorney can help a spouse protect his or her individual rights and ensure a fair decision by the judge.
Source: Fox Business, "Is Wife Liable for Ex's Card Debt?", Sally Herigstad, May 07, 2013