Dividing the Debt: How Alabama Courts Divide Debts in a Divorce

Just as division of material assets is often a contentious issue during a divorce, so is distribution of marital debt. To understand how marital debt is generally handled in Alabama, you must understand that Alabama is an equitable-distribution state. Essentially, this means that judges in divorce cases are not under any statutory burden to divide marital property evenly (50/50) as is the case with community-property states. 

Instead, he or she takes into account unique factors in the case to get to an equitable and fair—not necessarily equal— distribution of property and assets. Keep in mind that the judge is only dividing marital property and not property gained before your marriage. The same goes with debt. 

What to Expect

Any kind of debt incurred before your marriage will be distributed to the individual responsible for the debt, as it will not be considered marital debt. You will want to gather any documents that lay out the debts that genuinely belong to you. If you find out during the discovery process of your divorce that your soon-to-be-ex spouse hid a significant amount of debt from you, that will almost certainly not be considered marital debt.

However, it is important to note that creditors will use any means necessary to collect their debts. Even if your ex decides he will take on debt incurred through a specific line of credit, you could be targeted by the credit card company if he doesn’t pay and your name is listed as a debtor on the account.

The length of your marriage will also likely come into play during division of debts. A relatively short marriage will provide a clear picture on whose debt is whose. During a longer marriage, the delineations between owners of debt become somewhat blurred. Another factor that goes into debt division is the ability of each spouse to pay off outstanding debts.

Conclusion

Whereas many states divide marital assets in accordance with the community property standard, Alabama is not one of them. This means there is significant leeway for judges to determine and mediators to suggest who gets specific debt in a divorce agreement.

It is not uncommon for couples divorcing in Alabama to come into the process with a debt liability that overshadows the value of property and assets. For this reason, it is smart to enlist the competent legal services of an experienced family law attorney so you are not saddled with an overwhelming amount of debt after your split. Call John Totten today at (256) 233-2025 to protect your financial future.

Written by John M. Totten

John M. Totten

John's office is in Athens, Alabama, where he has helped thousands of people in North Alabama with everything from family law issues, to catastrophic injury and death cases, to criminal defense.