One aspect that must be handled in almost every divorce is how to handle the division of debt. Almost all marriages involve some form of joint or personal debt that must be addressed when separating households, whether it comes in the form of student loans, mortgages, car loans or credit card. Each type of debt is handled differently in a family law case and must be addressed by the parties to the divorce and their attorneys.
How is Credit Card Debt Divided in a Divorce Case?
In most cases credit card debt will be considered a joint debt to be divided equally between the parties regardless of whether one party was responsible for using the credit card more often and really creating the debt. This can be true even where one party basically hides the existence of the debt from the other. For instance, even where one party has opened a credit card in his or her own name and intercepted the mail or requested only e-statements so that the other spouse was not aware of the expenditures or the debt, the court will consider this joint marital debt to be divided between the parties. This is basically a corollary of the the notion that all property that comes into a divorce is considered marital property regardless of who purchased the property or technically earned the income that was used to purchase the property. Essentially credit card debt is treated as "negative property" when it comes to a divorce.
However there are a few categories of credit card debt that a family law court will often consider outside of the realm of marital debt. Some examples of debt that the court would most likely consider outside of the realm of "normal expenses" are debts incurred on an affair or extramarital paramour, debts created by gambling or debts created by unlawful activity So for example if one of the parties took a paramour on a trip and used a credit card, then that debt would be considered solely the debt of the party that incurred it. If one spouse becomes hooked on gambling and runs up massive debts to a casino, often that will be considered the debt of that party alone and he or she will be forced to bare it alone. Finally, if one spouse gets a drinking and driving ticket and puts attorney fees and costs on a credit card, then that will often be considered solely the debt of the law breaking spouse.
Unfortunately, if you did not get a prenuptial agreement and you have a spouse that is a spendthrift, the only way to protect yourself from being responsible for half of that debt, is to file for divorce. If you are able to reconcile, then a post-nuptial settlement agreement might be a potential solution but those are not fully recognized by Michigan law in every case.
Divorce is a deceptively complicated area of the law, if you are considering a divorce or separation, please do not hesitate to contact us to schedule a consultation.