Miami Divorce Attorneys Advise Clients on Marital and Nonmarital Liabilities

Reliable management of equitable distribution leads to fair debt allocation

At Rafool, PLLC, in Miami, our divorce attorneys are determined to protect your financial interests. For many people, life after divorce is more expensive than married life was. You can probably expect to be much more conscious of the cost of living as a single person, especially as a single parent, than you had to be when you were sharing one residence. However, your situation can be far worse if you find yourself saddled with a lot of unexpected debt after your divorce. Unfortunately, that could happen, depending on how the court divides the liabilities you and your spouse have taken on. When it comes to debt, we are detail-oriented and meticulous about challenging items that are not your responsibility. You want to start a fresh chapter of your life after divorce. But the burden of heavy debt could make you feel like you are still trapped in an unrewarding marriage. We understand, and we work tirelessly to deliver results that offer the freedom you deserve.

How Florida courts treat debt in the divorce process

It may sound counterintuitive, but debt is property and therefore subject to Florida’s equitable distribution process. A crucial step in this equitable division is to distinguish between marital and nonmarital assets and debt.

As Miami divorce attorneys, we can provide valuable information, such as how the court will look at your debts. The court must determine:

  • Whether the debt is separate or marital
  • How much the debt is worth
  • What proportion of the debt each party should be responsible for

Similar rules apply to debt as apply to assets. For debt to be separate property for which only one spouse is responsible, a spouse must have accumulated it prior to the marriage or after the petition for divorce was filed. The value of the debt depends on the principal owed plus any interest projected over the time required to pay it back. Once the total of the debt is known, the court applies a variety of factors to determine a fair division of the debt.

When it comes specifically to debt, there are three very pertinent factors the court must consider:

  • The contribution of each spouse to the production of income or the incurring of liabilities —. If one spouse was doing the lion’s share of the earning while the other was doing most of the spending, the court must scrutinize the type of spending to see if it was justified or simply frivolous.
  • The desirability of retaining the marital home — The home is usually the greatest asset a couple has, but its mortgage is often the largest obligation. When the couple has children who would be best served by being allowed to stay in the home they know, the liability for the mortgage becomes a bone of contention. After all, only one spouse is going to enjoy living in that home.
  • The intentional dissipation, waste, depletion or destruction of marital assets — The court not only questions rampant spending after the petitioner has filed for divorce but will also examine spending patterns for the previous two years.

Under the three-step process of equitable distribution, the court can assign debt to a party either because it is that party’s separate property or because that party is mostly responsible for having created the debt. As your advocates, we alert the court to all pertinent facts that tend to weigh in your favor.

Common debt scenarios for divorcing couples

There’s no escaping the fact that American households run up debt, and often more than they reasonably should. Debt accumulated during the course of the marriage can include:

  • Property mortgages
  • Credit card balances
  • Medical bills
  • Business loans
  • Student loans
  • Auto loans
  • Back taxes and penalties

Under most circumstances, each of these would be considered marital debt. Although at first blush a student loan incurred during the marriage might seem like a separate obligation, the court will consider it a marital debt and weigh the fact that it largely benefits one spouse in the distribution phase.

It is also far too common for parties to discover that their spouses had hidden debts. These could be credit card balances rung up by compulsive shopping, gambling debts or even gifts to a paramour. Whether the court holds an innocent spouse partly responsible for such debts depends on the totality of the circumstances. As your determined advocates, we do everything possible to protect you from the consequences of a spouse’s secret debt.

Contact our Miami divorce lawyers for guidance on marital liabilities

You should not have to start the next stage of your life saddled with unexpected debt. Rafool, PLLC works tirelessly to protect your financial future against liabilities that rightfully belong to your spouse. For immediate assistance, call us at (305) 567-9400 or contact our Miami office online to schedule an initial consultation.