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Do you have to pay your ex-spouse’s debts in a divorce?

The division of marital property is an essential part of divorce. Both assets and debts may qualify as marital property, depending on when and how they were acquired. Depending on the circumstances of your divorce, you may end up settling the bill for your ex’s debts.

When are you responsible for your ex-spouse’s debts?

After a divorce, both spouses should be liable for any debts incurred during the marriage. However, Illinois courts divide marital property on an equitable rather than equal basis.

When determining who is accountable for financial obligations, the court will consider whoever has more capacity to pay. If the court determines that you have more earning potential, you may be given responsibility for paying off the majority of the debts and a bigger portion of the assets as compensation.

Below are two examples of debts you may have to pay:

Loans that were taken out for the family’s benefit

According to the Illinois Family Expense Act, if a debt was incurred to cover essential family expenses, both spouses may be held liable for payment. Taking out a loan or incurring credit card debt to pay for necessities like rent, medicine and child care all qualify as family expenses.

Debts your ex isn’t able to pay

If the court finds that your ex-spouse lacks the financial means to settle the debts accrued during the marriage, you may be awarded the majority of those obligations. For instance, if your ex accrued student debt to seek higher education during the marriage, the court may consider it marital debt for which you have to pay the majority.

It is also possible for credit card companies and other lenders to come after you if your ex-spouse does not pay off their obligations before finalizing the divorce.

Some people lie about their finances in order to gain more from the divorce. If you are thinking about filing for divorce and have concerns about your spouse’s debts, you should talk to an attorney as soon as possible. You don’t want to wait until the court awards you the majority of the outstanding debt.

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