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Got Marital Debt? Who’s Responsible for What Debts When You Divorce in North Carolina?

On Behalf of | Jun 12, 2024 | Divorce |

If you’re in North Carolina and thinking about divorce, you might be wondering, “What happens to our debts?” It’s a crucial question and knowing the answer can help you plan your next steps more confidently.

In a North Carolina divorce, marital property and divorce debt are to be divided “equitably,” which means fairly. The law starts with the assumption that an equal division of the marital property and debts is generally fair. However, either spouse can ask for an unequal division of the property or debt. If a judge determines an unequal division is fair, he or she can order that.

But before we get too far into that, here are some basic concepts.

Separate vs. Marital Debt

The first thing to understand is that only marital property and debts are divided in a North Carolina divorce. Some property and debts are considered “separate” – owned by only one spouse. Determining which property and debts are separate and which are marital (belonging to the couple) can be complex.

In general, however, debts that one person took on before the marriage are considered separately theirs. Debts that either or both of you took on after the marriage are considered marital in nature – but this can be challenged.

For example, a spouse’s student loans, taken out before the marriage, are generally considered separate. That means the other spouse would not be responsible for them.

Will We Have to Go to Court to Divide Our Debts?

You might be imagining a long series of court rulings on exactly which property and debts are separate or marital in nature. Luckily, that almost never happens.

In reality, you will probably negotiate or mediate most of the issues in your divorce, including the division of property and debt. During this process, you and your divorcing spouse can come to whatever conclusions you think are fair, as long as your agreement generally complies with North Carolina law.

Only if you cannot agree will you need to take an issue to court. The judge will consider a variety of factors when determining whether a certain debt is marital or separate. Once this determination is made, the judge will decide whether the marital property and debts should be divided equally.

If You Have Questions, We Can Help

If one spouse’s debts are going to be an issue in your divorce, it’s important to get experienced help from a compassionate attorney. Your attorney is your ally as you work toward a fair distribution of your debts in a North Carolina divorce.


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