When couples decide to divorce, they often know that they will need to divide their property. They may not be aware, however, that they also must divide their debt and may need additional information about this process.

When a judge issues a divorce order, it explains each spouse’s responsibility for paying debts incurred during the marriage. There are two type of accounts that may be affected, individual and joint accounts.

With an individual account, the spouse who took on the debt is responsible for paying it. If the spouses took on debt together in a joint account, both spouses are responsible for paying the debt even if the divorce order assigns separate debt obligations to each spouse.

Creditors

Borrowers may not realize that the divorce order does not extend to their creditors, meaning that the creditor can still pursue unpaid balances or missed payments from each spouse.

It may be helpful for spouses to close joint accounts and ask the creditor to convert the account to an individual account. Sometimes, the creditor may ask the spouses to reapply for credit individually or require the spouses to refinance debts such as mortgages, vehicle loans or home equity loans, which may allow one spouse’s name to be removed from the obligation.

If spouses have a joint credit card, they may also be able to divide and transfer the debt to each spouse separately.

Dividing debt can be complicated and it is important that it is completed correctly. An experienced attorney can help spouses with their questions about debt division and related family law matters.