When you file for divorce in California, it might be safe to assume that you keep your debts and your spouse keeps their debts. However, it isn’t always that easy. California is a community law state, meaning that all debts and assets are divided evenly during a divorce. This could mean that you end up paying half of your former spouse’s debts.
How are debts divided in a community law state?
Most states rely on a judge’s final decision to divide up assets in a divorce. However, community law states like California are different. Anything determined to be “marital property” must be divided evenly regardless of whose name is on it. For example, if you bought a car during your marriage, that car would be considered marital property even if you used your own funds and it has your name on the title.
This also applies to debt. If your former spouse racked up $20,000 in credit card debt, you might be stuck with half their debt after the divorce. Even if you live in a community property state, you can still try to negotiate to keep your name from being added to the debt. But if the judge rules that you share responsibility, you might have creditors calling you and trying to get their money back. It’s one of the most complicated issues in the world of divorce.
How can you protect yourself during a divorce?
You might live in a community law state, but you still have rights during your divorce. An attorney might be able to protect you from taking on your former spouse’s debts. If you do get stuck with the debts, your attorney might offer legal advice so that you don’t end up paying debt you didn’t accrue in the first place.