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Addressing debt within a Missouri divorce

For many Missouri spouses, the division of marital wealth is the predominant topic within their divorce. Most spouses focus on the manner in which marital assets will be divided but pay relatively little attention to issues of debt. When it comes to the property division portion of a divorce, debt plays an important role. It is imperative that spouses understand how the law stands in regard to separate versus marital debt.

Separate debt includes those financial obligations that a spouse acquired prior to the date of marriage. This can include credit card debt, auto loans or even student loan debt. While there are certain exceptions, separate debt will remain the responsibility of the individual who signed on for those obligations.

Marital debt includes most forms of debt that were acquired during the marriage, up until the date of separation. If the divorce cannot be resolved between the parties, the court will look at the volume and type of debt to determine how it should be divided. Unfortunately, a spouse who claims that his or her partner spent money in an irresponsible manner will have few options when it comes to dividing those debts during divorce. This is true even in cases where one spouse was largely unaware of the full scope of debt accumulated within the marriage.

While in the early stages of a Missouri divorce, spouses should make a thorough assessment of all debt held both within and outside of the marriage. Having this information will be helpful in estimating how debt will be divided during the divorce. It also becomes easier to structure a post-divorce budget, which is an important step in rebuilding financial stability following the end of a marriage.

Source: TIme, "What Happens to My Debt If I Get a Divorce?", Leslie Tayne, June 23, 2015

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