Who is responsible for marital debts after an Illinois divorce?

On Behalf of | Oct 5, 2023 | Property Division |

Married couples often accumulate a lot of property together. They may buy a home where they live and fill it with furniture. They may start saving for retirement together and investing their surplus income. They will likely also take on debt during the marriage. They might share credit cards, and either spouse might take on a student loan if they seek to continue their education.

Debts can strain the financial stability of a marriage and might contribute to the likelihood of a divorce. Even if financial matters did not influence someone’s decision to file for divorce, they will almost inevitably complicate Illinois divorce negotiations. People who understand how the courts typically handle debt may be in a better position when negotiating with their spouse or preparing for a hearing in family court.

Marital debt is usually subject to division

Any of the debts that people took on during the marriage might be part of their marital estate. The courts won’t care that an account is only in one person’s name. What will matter most is when someone acquired the debt. The intention behind the debt is also important.

A credit card held by one spouse might be an obligation that falls to both of them. However, if someone lied about their debt, hid their credit card use or acquired a debt maliciously, those debts may not be subject to division. If someone maxes out their credit cards right before filing for divorce, the courts would likely view that as an act of dissipation. Debts generated while conducting an extramarital affair are also possibly subject to exclusion during Illinois divorce proceedings.

Otherwise, the debts from during the marriage will typically contribute to the marital estate and influence other aspects of property division. The goal is an equitable outcome. When a judge looks at the assets and financial obligations that married couples share, they will ideally attempt to find a fair way to split those debts. They may consider their value in dividing real property or even order the sale of marital assets to arrange for their payment in full during the divorce.

Spouses who do not like the unpredictable nature of litigated equitable distribution proceedings might seek to take control of the process. It is always an option for divorcing spouses to agree on specific terms for sharing their assets and financial responsibilities when they divorce outside of court. Seeking legal guidance either way should lead to more effective planning for spouses concerned about dividing assets and debt alike.