In a Washington divorce, all debts are divided, even if they solely belong to one spouse or the other. While some spouses are able to agree to a division of debts, other spouses must turn to the court for the division of their debts. There are two major reasons why debt division is so important. First, it is extremely difficult, if not impossible, to change the division of debts and assets after a divorce becomes final. Second, being responsible for certain debts can impact your life and your finances for years to come. Therefore, it is essential that you consult with an experienced Washington divorce lawyer, preferably before you begin the debt division process.

When you start to divide debts, you must characterize them as community debts or separate debts, just as you would with respect to the property. Debts incurred by either or both spouses during the marriage are presumed to be community debts, and debts incurred prior to the marriage or after the date of separation tend to remain separate debts. Regardless of their characterization, however, the divorce court has the discretion to divide debts in a just and equitable manner, regardless of whose name is on the debt. Also, keep in mind that “just and equitable” does not automatically mean equal. For instance, if there is a huge disparity in the spouses’ incomes, then the court may rule that the wealthier spouse take on a larger portion of the debt, or even all of the debt, depending on the circumstances of the case.

In most cases, and particularly in shorter marriages, a debt that one spouse incurred prior to the marriage or after the date of the parties’ separation is likely to remain fully responsible for that debt. Community debts, or those debts incurred during the marriage, are normally the equal responsibility of the spouses. However, absent an agreement of the parties or a valid prenuptial agreement that dictates the debt division, the court can allocate debt between the spouses in whatever manner it considers to be fair.

Resolving the issues involved in your divorce is never easy, especially if you and your ex-have significant debts. The outcome of your divorce case from a financial perspective can significantly affect your life for years to come. It is in these kinds of cases that a Washington divorce lawyer can be most useful to you and truly make a difference in the outcome of your case. Visit our website at pnwfamilylaw.com and click on the “Contact Us” button and fill out the online form today. If you contact us online, one of our staff members will get back to you right away.