Debt During Divorce: How Does New York Decide?

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Though divorce may seem as simple as signing a piece of paper to legally end your marriage, there is much more to the process. This is due to the fact that marriage is technically a legal union, meaning the process is much more involved. From dividing assets to awarding alimony, there are many considerations that need to be made before you can end the union. One aspect that many forget about is what happens to debt during divorce. If you are afraid of incurring more debt than you deserve, you’ll want to reach out to a Suffolk County divorce attorney for help.

Who Is Responsible for Debt During Divorce?

The divorce process will not only divide property and child custody, but it will also divide the debt that has been incurred over the course of your marriage.

New York is not a community property state, which means that property and debt are not divided equally among spouses. Instead, it operates under equitable distribution, which means the court is responsible for deciding how much debt and property each spouse will inherit. Generally, the bulk of the debt will go to the more “deserving” spouse.

What Factors Are Considered?

When the court decides who incurs what debt, they will take a host of different factors into consideration before awarding amounts. The goal is to ensure there is a fair split between both spouses, instead of an equal distribution. The components the court will take into account include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Who is most responsible for the debt
  • When the debt was accumulated
  • Why the debt exists

For example, if your spouse accumulated debt in order to pay for the house you lived in, you would have benefitted from the debt. This means the split is more likely to be even. However, if they spent money on frivolous purchases that you did not take advantage of, they would likely inherit that debt.

In some cases, you may find that your spouse was intentionally hiding money. This can be an indication that they were preparing for the divorce or were spending money on gambling or an affair. You can accuse your spouse of wasteful dissipation, which holds one spouse responsible for the bulk of, if not all, of the debt.

What Can I Do to Protect Myself?

If you have not gotten married yet, you can protect yourself from becoming responsible for your spouse’s debt. You should also keep all documents related to debt, as this can help you either claim the debt to be marital or that you should not be responsible.

Similarly, you can invest in the assistance of an experienced New York lawyer from Peter V. Mandi & Associates, Inc. Utilizing the counsel of a competent attorney is essential to protecting yourself from incurring more debt than you deserve.

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