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Don't forget about dividing your debts in divorce

As you and your spouse near the end of your marriage, you may have concerns about your financial future. One important step in ensuring you do not face your post-divorce life with financial struggles is to fight for a fair and equitable division of your marital assets. For you, this may include obtaining a reasonable appraisal of some valuables and even searching for hidden or forgotten assets.

However, even if you obtain a generous portion of community property, you may still be at risk of financial hardship if you end up with a disproportionate share of your family's debt. Many couples overlook their debt when they consider splitting their belongings, and this may leave them with an unfair burden to carry into their newly single life.

Half is not always fair

British Columbia courts consider any debt to be marital if it occurs while you are married whether you or your spouse incurred the debt or even if the debt is in only one of your names. You and your spouse may have carried individual credit cards, purchased real estate in your own names or even borrowed money from one of your family members. In most cases, the law sees these debts as belonging equally to both of you, and the court will usually divide debts evenly between divorcing spouses.

Fortunately, the courts may recognize when it is unfair to saddle one spouse with half the marital debt. For example, the judge in your divorce may consider any of the following factors:

  • Who incurred the debt and for what reason?
  • Do you have less ability to pay the debts than your spouse will after the divorce?
  • Was your spouse somehow responsible for adding more debt after you separated?

These and other questions may convince the court to give your spouse a larger share of the marital debt. However, you must understand that the court's order does not change your responsibility to the creditor. If the court assigns your spouse to pay any debt that carries your name, the creditors may legally pursue you for the debt if your spouse refuses to pay. For this reason, you would be wise to cancel any joint credit accounts and pay off as much joint debt as possible before you divorce.

Seeking advice and help

If you are preparing for divorce, you have a lot at stake. One of the variables that can determine your future security is obtaining a fair share of marital assets and debts. A skilled British Columbia lawyer can examine your debt situation and help you fight for a fair separation that will help you meet your goal of a financially stable future.

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