Understanding What Qualifies as Marital and Separate Debt
Equally important yet less savory than dividing assets is splitting debt. Debt is typically assigned to the spouse responsible for it. However, there are cases in which, regardless of a spouse’s role in racking up the debt, they could be made to pay off a portion of it.
Missouri categorizes debt as either separate or marital depending on when it was incurred. Separate debt typically includes all dues acquired by a spouse before their marriage. Marital debt, however, usually refers to the debt that the pair obtained together throughout their marriage.
There are instances, however, where separate property could become marital property. If a couple adds both names to a car title or mortgage loan, for example, their responsibility for the fees is shared. Essentially, your obligation to repay debt in your divorce will depend on which debt is in your name and when it was accrued.
Credit Card Balances
Credit card debt can be a shared responsibility, even if it wasn’t in your name. If the card was used to buy objects that you could be seen as having benefited from, it could become your responsibility. However, if you were unaware of the account and can prove that you did not benefit from the purchases made, you may be able to rid yourself of the burden of repaying that debt.
Student Loan Debt
One’s obligation to repay their partner’s student loan debt depends on when the loan was taken. If a spouse has a loan from before their marriage, it remains their responsibility after divorce unless they had it refinanced or their spouse otherwise cosigned.
If the student loan debt is to be shared by both spouses, it will be divided equitably in keeping with Missouri’s asset division standards. This means it may not be divided exactly in half, but split however is fair based on:
- The length of the marriage
- Each spouse’s economic circumstances
- Each spouse’s contributions to the home while the student was attending classes
- Total amount of individual and shared debt
- Each spouse’s individual property