Debts, not just assets, addressed during California divorce

People may embrace marriage for a wide range of reasons. Some are eager to emotionally share their lives with their partners in California. Others, however, are primarily driven by the financial benefits of marriage. For instance, they may look forward to finally having their spouses' help when it comes to paying off their debt. However, if the marriage turns sour and the two get a divorce, the person who acquired the debt before the marriage must be prepared to re-assume this responsibility after the marriage.

Debt is a major issue today with so many college students graduating with large amounts of student loan debt. The fact that many students leave campus with nearly $30,000 in debt is startling, as they enter marriage with this burden. People who decide to attain master's or doctorate degrees may be even more in the hole financially.

While a debt incurred before a marriage will be owed by the original debtor following a divorce, debt acquired during a marriage will be both parties' responsibility. This is because it is viewed as marital debt. Putting together a prenuptial agreement before getting married enables a couple to proactively dictate exactly how such debt will be handled if they do split up.

California is a community property state, which means marital debt will be divided equally between the two parties. This is the case even if only one person was responsible for racking up the debt. Likewise, both parties are responsible for one individual's tax obligation if it accrued during their union. An individual has the right to seek legal guidance in California when navigating the complicated process of divorce, especially when extensive debt or a large number of assets is involved.

Source: The Wall Street Journal, "Who Is Responsible for the Student Loans After Divorce?", Charlie Wells, April 13, 2014

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