Marital debt is defined as debt that was incurred during the duration of a marriage. This can be debt from credit cards, mortgages, loans, and other credit practices. The responsibility to pay this debt is determined and divided by the courts. Determining possession of property and custody of children is a primary struggle in any divorce. Dividing the marital debts and determining which spouse is responsible for paying those debts can add another turn into an already tortuous process.
Typically, the court will determine that debt incurred for the needs of the family, such as groceries, or school needs, and this will be divided equally. Debts incurred for personal gained are usually left to the individual who incurred that debt to pay it off. While these seem like common sense divisions of debt, there are various unique scenarios that leave the responsible debtor in doubt. For instance, if the card was in one name but used by another for expenses unrelated to the family, dual ownership of credit cards used for the illicit purposes of only one spouse, cards taken out in the other spouses name.
The Utah courts use very broad parameters and discretion in determining how the debt will be divided. Usually, the evidence will be reviewed, and it will be determined who incurred the debts, and for which purposes. The court will then review the incomes of both parties and their ability to pay off the debts. In Rehn v. Rehn, the husband, who made 80% of the household income was ordered to pay for 80% of the debt accrued in marriage, while the wife was held responsible for 20%.
Of course, there is always the possibility that your spouse may have accrued debt without your knowledge, but in your name or using you as joint debtor. Despite the divorce decree, the debtor can still hold you responsible for 50% or more of the debt. Additionally, despite any agreements or the divorce decree, creditors may disregard any ruling, and pursue the debts in equal measures. To prevent this, maintain a thorough accounting of all of your debts and accounts, and gather all the available financial information possible to present to a judge. Additionally, finding an experienced lawyer with expertise in the area of debt division is the most certain method you can use to protect yourself from being burdened by the transgressions of the other spouse.