What Happens with Unpaid Debts During a California Divorce?

California divorces rarely happen when both parties are ready for it and there are frequently issues that are left unresolved at the time of the filing. While there are a variety of concerns in any divorce such as children, support and division or property, neither side wants to be saddled with paying debts that the other might have incurred at the legal end of a marriage. Understanding how unpaid debts are addressed under the law in a divorce is a vital part of a case and requires experienced legal advice.

When there are debts that both parties have incurred – community debts – when the trial takes place, they will either be confirmed or divided as part of the process. When the debts were incurred by either of the parties before the marriage, they will be confirmed for the party that incurred them and there will be no offset. After the marriage, if there were debts incurred and they came about before the date the couple separated, these will be divided. However, if these debts exceeded total community and quasi-community assets, the excess will be assigned based on what the court deems to be just and equitable. That will include the ability to pay.

If there were debts after the date the couple separated but prior to the marriage being dissolved or there being a legal separation, the debts will be addressed as follows: the debts that the parties incurred as part of necessities of life of the person or for children from the marriage will be confirmed to either spouse based on need and ability to pay; if the debts were for non-necessities, the spouse who incurred the debt will be responsible for them and there will be no offset. If there were debts by either party after a dissolution but prior to the marital status being terminated or a legal separation, the party that incurred the debt will be responsible for it.

When there are outstanding debts and the divorcing parties are trying to restart their lives, they will not want to be obligated to pay that which was incurred by the other. The law will seek to find a fair resolution to these complex situations. Each side must have a qualified attorney to help with these difficult legal issues. Contacting a law firm that specializes in family law and divorce is important when handling debt.

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