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Debt Division in Divorce Can Catch You Off-Guard


Going through a divorce means eventually splitting up your marital property, or what you purchased, accrued, or improved together with your spouse while married. As a community property state, California tends to take all shared property and split it as close to evenly as possible; equitable distribution is rare and might only be the result of out-of-court negotiations. For some people, a 50-50 split of property can be a boon, especially if they were making the lesser income in the marriage, or if they had no personal income at all. The situation can turn sour, however, once debt is brought into the equation.

Equal Division of Marital Debt in California

Yes, it is not just the good and valuable property that needs to be divided in divorce, but also the marital debt. A California family law court sees debt as a form of property or a type of asset, just like anything else. Using the same rules of community property, any debt that was accrued while married will be halved by default.

If you are thinking about going through a divorce, then you need to know about the debt your spouse has created while you were married. Even if you did not know about the debt and the items purchased that led to the debt provided no benefit to you, like a car you never drove once, the court will see you as 50% responsible for it. In the end, you could get blindsided with hefty debt that you do not know how to pay.

Keep a Careful Watch On Your Finances

Separate debt – or debt accrued by one spouse before marriage or after an official date of separation – is often the only type of debt that will not get the 50-50 division in California. However, there are many cases in which spouses get infuriated by an impending divorce, realize debt will be split as community property, and then go on a spending spree to try to buy everything they can at essentially 50% off. You need to track your finances and look for any suspicious activity that could indicate voluntary debt accrual after you announced you wanted a divorce. Proving your soon-to-be ex-spouse intentionally tried to rack up debt could convince the court to place that burden entirely on their own shoulders.

For help proving your side of the story and protecting your finances as much as possible during debt division, you can turn to Gille Kaye Law Group, PC and our Pasadena attorneys. Christine Gille, Esq., JD, MBA, CFLS is a Certified Family Law Specialist, a title given only to legal professionals who can prove their expertise in a particular area of law by passing a rigorous exam. Led by her experience, insight, and unmatched knowledge, we have the ability to guide you through your divorce, no matter how complex or high-stakes it may be.

Contact our law firm at your first opportunity to get started with a consultation.

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