Cherie Kerr - Divorce and debtBy the time Cherie Kerr and her ex-husband finally went their separate ways, her ex had run up $89,000 in debt during the divorce proceedings alone. She knew that if she didn't take action fast, that debt would scar her financial life forever.

In a way, Kerr knew the marriage was over before it began. Her husband, a home builder, almost immediately asked to borrow $100,000 on Kerr's house to finance his business "and I stupidly agreed," says Kerr, who owns a publicity firm in Santa Ana, Calif.

He said he'd pay her back in six months, but after five years, when the marriage was crumbling -- in large part because Kerr says she didn't trust her husband -- he still hadn't paid her back. He finally managed to do so a few months before the divorce papers were to be signed, and Kerr breathed a huge sigh of relief. Yet, a few weeks later, Kerr learned that her husband had taken out a $150,000 line of credit in both of names and had already spent $89,000 of it."What are you mad about?" her husband asked when confronted with this new development. "There's plenty of money left for you, too."

"I'm not living on borrowed money," protested Kerr, who knew she'd be responsible for paying back that debt. So she spoke with her attorney, who then spoke with her soon-to-be ex-husband.

Luckily for Kerr, her husband managed to pay back the money from the line of credit before they hashed everything out in court.

Kerr barely escaped a financial disaster. Before a divorce is final, the debt your partner incurs during that period is still yours.

"A spouse is and can be held liable in a divorce for the other spouse's debts -- and it doesn't necessarily matter whose name the debt is in," says Richard P. Terbrusch, a matrimonial attorney (nobody seems to call themselves "divorce attorneys" any more) in Danbury, Conn.

So if you've just ended a marriage or are considering calling it quits and wondering what's going to happen to that debt your spouse racked up, it might be helpful to understand a few things.

There Are Two Types of Debt

When it comes to divorce and debt, there are two forms of debt that courts primarily tend to look at: living expenses and community property.

Living expenses are, as you'd imagine, the money you pay for the mortgage or rent, groceries, utilities, your cable or cell phone, and other, similar expenses. Community property is pretty much everything else.

So if you and your spouse owe, say, $3,000 on a credit card that you've been using to pay for groceries, gas and cable, that debt is considered living expense debt. But if the debt you've racked up on your credit card is for gym equipment, a new TV, a freezer-on-top refrigerator -- well, that's community property debt.

Determining the debt you owe begins to get confusing if you have both living expenses and community property expenses on the same credit card. And it gets more complicated if one person had the credit card before the marriage and racked up say, $5,000 in debt on it prior to the marriage, and then during the marriage, both parties added even more debt to it.

At that point, "what debts are separate and what aren't, and what debts you can justifiably say aren't yours is almost impossible," says Bob Nachshin, a matrimonial attorney in Century City, Calif., whose clients have included Will Smith, Rod Stewart, John Ritter and Barry Bonds.

Where You Live Determines Whether You Share That Debt

In community property states, the courts see the debt that's accrued over the course of the marriage as the responsibility of both parties. So if you and your spouse bought a boat for $25,000, and you still owe $20,000 on it, then both parties split that $20,000 debt down the middle.

But what if the husband secretly bought that boat with a credit card that was in his name only and the wife, whose name wasn't on the card, had no clue about its existence? In a community property state, she still owes $10,000.

Likewise, says Terbrusch, "if the wife runs up a credit card in her name alone during the marriage, a portion or all of the debt could be assigned to the husband during the divorce."

Community property states are Arizona, California, Idaho, Louisiana, Nevada, New Mexico, Texas, Washington and Wisconsin.

If you're living in another state, then how you split your debt is likely done through what's called equitable distribution, in which attorneys and a judge determine who owes what. In other words, if your spouse racked up a lot of credit card debt in secret, you're more likely to come out of your marriage not owing any of that money. But while that makes it sound like community property states belong in the Stone Age, that's not necessarily so.

After all, by splitting everything down the middle, courts are trying to promote the idea that a marriage is an equal partnership, and that if a mom quits her job to stay home and raise the kids while the dad brings home the paychecks, she's entitled to half the assets because she was contributing half her time and energy into keeping the family going. In this case, equitable distribution works to the benefit of both partners.

And while it's different in every state, courts are generally going to take many factors into consideration, from how long the marriage lasted and each person's income during the union to whether either spouse had been wed before, which is relevant if your soon-to-be-ex brought debt to the marriage that was a result of his or her former spouse's out-of-control spending habits.

Lesson to Be Learned

Kerr's experience left her wiser. Her advice for couples in bad marriages: "The minute you split up, or even before you split up, make sure everything is paid for. I know that if I ever got married again, I'd want everything in my name and maybe one joint account, which I'd make sure was buttoned up so we couldn't get into too much trouble. I never want to be that vulnerable again."

If you're saddled with an ex-spouse's debt that's ruining your life, and you don't feel you have any other recourse, there's always the option of bankruptcy. It may be an unappealing option, but since bankruptcy discharges most of what you owe, it does make it possible to divorce a spouse's debt.

And most experts will tell you that if you're going to have to declare bankruptcy, it's better to do it jointly, before you end the marriage -- that's simply because if you're trying to make a clean break, its hard to do so if you're burdened by a large amount of debt that you accumulated during your marriage. While we're not recommending bankruptcy as your first option, if it's clear that it's going to be in the cards, you'd be wise to make it part of the divorce experience, rather than have to deal with it several months later.

And keep in mind that if your partner declares bankruptcy and you don't, you'll be on the hook for all the debt you two accumulated during the marriage. Credit card companies don't care that your ex was a jerk, and that ethically you shouldn't have to pay the $40,000 he or she spent during the years you were married. If your name was on that credit card, the company can come after you for those funds. If your departing spouse declares bankruptcy, that alone may force your hand to declare it as well.

But not all news is bad news.

"Courts are fair," says Naschin, the attorney who has handled a lot of celebrity divorces. Overall, he says, when it comes to deciding whose debt is whose, "most courts aren't jaded and want to do the right thing. And most courts don't want to be reversed in an appeal."

Geoff Williams is a frequent contributor to WalletPop. He is also the co-author of the book Living Well with Bad Credit.

Increase your money and finance knowledge from home

Building Credit from Scratch

Start building credit...now.

View Course »

Advice for Recent College Grads

Prepare yourself for the "real world".

View Course »

Add a Comment

*0 / 3000 Character Maximum

145 Comments

Filter by:
Smith Ryan

Are you finding it difficult finding the right solutions to all your problems? you don't need to hide your problem because if you do, you will never find the solution to it. so i advice you to visit DR. UZOR SPELL TEMPLE today and get all your problem solved.money spell, financial problems, marriage problem, court case, what ever your problem is, get them solved because god didn't send you to this world to suffer.if you are interested you can contact via email {uzorspelltemple@gmail.com}or you can visit him on website: (www.uzorspelltemple.webs.com )

February 27 2016 at 10:21 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Christy Ben

Life is good when you have your love ones around you, I am saying this because when i had issues with my lover i never seen life as a good thing but thanks to Dr. Moon TEMPLE whose details is doctormoontemple778@gmail.com for helping me to cast a spell that brought my lover back to me within the space of 48 hours. I am not going to tell you more details about myself rather i will only advise those who are having issues in their relationships or marriages to contact Dr. MOON TEMPLE through his email doctormoontemple778@gmail.com you can call with this number +2348056950013 OR add he on Whats-app Dr MOON thanks you sir.

February 26 2016 at 5:43 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Carla Thomas

I contacted Lord Lugard during the period my husband left me in February 1st of 2016 because i wanted my husband to be home with me and we could be together on valentine's day. I skeptically called to see if he can be of help in making my husband love me and return his love and emotions back to me again. So when we had the first conversation he reassured and i quote "This spell is going to take a bit longer than my previous spells, due to his reluctance and a controlling spell laid on him, but no worries I'm going to bring him back to you and make him fall in love with you again''. I can now bear out witness to the whole world that I moved in with my Husband in just 24 hours after his spell casting for me, and he has committed to the relationship and I can't thank Lord Lugard enough for changing my life for good..I am totally amazed and so happy that you have been able to do this for me. I am so amazed today because IT WORKS and I am living proof. I can't show appreciation to you adequately for bringing my man back, and will be forever appreciative for that. Thank you, thank you, Lord I will keep you informed, you have worked tirelessly for me. Call Him: +1 661 381 5308. Email: miracletemple@live.com. Website: http://miracletemplespells.webs.com.

February 26 2016 at 4:36 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Moore Rose

my name is Moore Rose from USA
i want to share a testimony of my life to every one. i am married to my husband, i love him so much and we have been married for 6 years now with one kids. when he went for a vacation to itally he meant a lady called cathrine and , he told me that he is no longer interested in the marriage any more. i was so confuse and devastated seeking for help, i don’t know what to do until I met my friend mrs jesica and i told her about my problem. she told me not to worry about it that she had a similar problem before and introduce me to a man called Dr Abiodu who cast a spell on her ex and brought him back to her after 2days. Mrs jesica asked me to contact prophetess Dr abiodu, I contacted him to help me bring back my husband and he ask me not to worry about it that the gods of his fore-fathers will fight for me. He told me in two days he will re-unite me and my husband together. After two day my husband called and told me he is coming back to sought things out things with me, I was surprise when I saw him and he started crying for forgiveness. Right now I am the happiest woman on earth for what this great spell caster did for me and my husband, you can contact prophetess Dr Abiodu on any problem in this world, he is very nice, here is his contact {drabiodutemple@gmail,com)…….., He is the best spell caster i have ever me
HIV/AIDS
Do you need a divorce ?
Do you want your ex lover back?
Do you want to get pregnant?
Do you want your husband to appreciate you?
Do you want to be famous or rich?
Do you want to be a celebrity?
Do you your business to grow excessively?
Do you want to be honorably good academically?
Do you need a job?
Do you need a husband?
Do you have problem in your marriage life?
do you want to win lottery or win a court case?
drabiodutemple@gmail.com

February 25 2016 at 8:32 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Lucas Ashley

Hello everybody, i want to thank DR INEGBEDION for saving my marriage,
I have been married for 3 years now and another woman had a spell to
take my husband away from me and my kids, ever since then, i have been
suffering with my kids until I saw a comment on how DR INEGBEDION have
helped someone to get back her husband too and I decided to give him a
try through his email via: drinegbedionspellhome@gmail.com to help me
bring my Husband back home and believe me, I just send my picture to
him and that of my husband and after 48 hours as he told me, my husband
drove home by himself apologizing that I should forgive him, now my
husband has show me much love more than ever. I am so happy to be with
my husband and kids again, I’m sharing my experience because i know a
lot of people need this help too. if you are one of those people and
you want to get your lover back contact DR INEGBEDION via email:
drinegbedionspellhome@gmail.com and he will surely help you just the
way he has helped me. Once again, thanks to DR INEGBEDION

Best Regard
Lucas Ashley

February 07 2016 at 2:39 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Theresa Rowe

I am married for 3 years..my husband has a short tempered, always mad at me, emotionally distant. He doesn't care about me, doesn't talk to me and he is more attached to this new lady who he claims they are just friends, and he most of the time chose the company of this new lady than me..He hide his phone activities..He betrayed me several times already..every time we fought he always threatened me to sell our house and divorce me..this was viscous cycle for 3 years, and all these conked out my feelings. And i always had this fear that this wasn't gonna keep us going until he finally told me it was over and that he wasn't ready to go on with me anymore.It wasn't easy after all the time he left and i couldn't just stand one more sleepless night alone in my life, so i was vulnerable and just needed to try whatever thing with prayers or magic. So i reached on to Priest Omar's website and i saw how he helped and reunited many marriages. I ordered a spell, and after 24 hours of his spell casting which was on 12TH OF JANUARY 2016, my ex husband who has not talked to me for almost 13 months called for us to be together again, in addition he was completely regretful for all his erroneous actions and he told me his life made sense only when he met me. This spell is 100% effective for me and for my husband. He's an amazing and powerful spell caster. Do contact him for similar issues on his Website: http://victorywhitemagicspell.webs.com and you can also call him on his Telephone: +1 863 274 3763.. Email: victorywhitemagicspell@outlook.com.

February 06 2016 at 6:27 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Austin Gift

STORY ON HOW I GOT MY LOAN IN WELLS FARGO BANK PLC...

Hello my dear people, I am Sinisa Rittenhouse, currently living in Jackson City, USA. I am a widow at the moment with three kids and i was stuck in a financial situation and i needed to refinance and pay my bills. I tried seeking loans from various loan firms both private and corporate but never with success, and most banks declined my credit ,do not fall prey to those hoodlums at there that call them self money lender they are all scam , all they want is your money and you well not hear from them again they have done it to me twice before I met Mr. Alex Gordon the most interesting part of it is that my loan was transfer to me within 48 hours so I will advise you to contact Mr. Alex Gordon if you are interested in getting loan and you are sure you can pay him back on time you can contact him via email……… (wellsfargoloan0@gmail.com) No credit check, no co signer with just 3% interest rate and better repayment plans and schedule if you must contact any firm with reference to securing a loan without collateral then contact Mr. Alex Gordon today for your loan
They offer all kind of categories of loan they
Short term loan (5_10years)
Long term loan (20_40)
Media term loan (10_20)
They offer loan like
Home loan............., Business loan........ Debt loan.......
Student loan.........., Business start up loan
Business loan......., Company loan.............. etc
Email.......... (wellsfargoloan0@gmail.com )
When it comes to financial crisis and loan then Alex Gordon loan financial is the place to go please just tell him I Mrs. Sinisa Rittenhouse direct you Good Luck......................

February 06 2016 at 5:09 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Carla Thomas

I contacted Lord Lugard during the period my husband left me in February 1st of 2016 because i wanted my husband to be home with me and we could be together on valentine's day. I skeptically called to see if he can be of help in making my husband love me and return his love and emotions back to me again. So when we had the first conversation he reassured and i quote "This spell is going to take a bit longer than my previous spells, due to his reluctance and a controlling spell laid on him, but no worries I'm going to bring him back to you and make him fall in love with you again''. I can now bear out to the whole world that I moved in with my Husband in just 24 hours after his spell casting for me, and he has committed to the relationship and I can't thank Lord Lugard enough for changing my life for good..I am totally amazed and so happy that you have been able to do this for me. I am so amazed today because IT WORKS and I am living proof. I can't show appreciation to you adequately for bringing my man back, and will be forever appreciative for that. Thank you, thank you, Lord I will keep you informed, you have worked tirelessly for me. Call Him: +1 661 381 5308. Email: miracletemple@live.com. Website: http://miracletemplespells.webs.com.

February 06 2016 at 3:38 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Dianna Faber

I am Dianna from Michigan, i was in a serious relationship with my Ex Boyfriend for three good years.. One day we were in a dinner party, we had a little misunderstanding which lead to a Quarrel and he stood up and left me at the dinner party. i try to call him but he was not picking my calls so after than i contacted my brother and told him about it,my brother had to see him on my behalf,he told my brother that it is over between us.. Then i contacted a friend of mine that once had a similar problem and she directed me to one of the spiritual diviner (rasheedtemple@gmail.com).at first i thought it was not going to be possible and i contacted him i was ask to come up with a little requirement,so i did what i was ask to do, after 2 days i was in my office when my Boyfriend called me and was asking me to forgive him and come back to him. i was very surprise it was like a dream to me,so ever since we have been happily married with one kid my lovely baby(Ceslav)...you can contact this great spell caster with name Dr Rasheed from India through his email at( rasheedtemple@gmail.com )i wish you the best of luck...

February 03 2016 at 7:17 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Joycelyn Calvin

I met my boyfriend while on vacation in Europe. We were both with tourist groups from across the country and it was fate that we met when we did. We both had just gotten out of abusive relationships and needed a fresh start. We had more in common than anyone I have ever met. He was my soul mate and I knew it from the day I met him. When we returned to the U.S., he became distant. We lived 5 states away from each other and maintaining a long distance relationship was hard. He broke up with me after a few months and I felt lost. My best friend told me about this love spell caster from re_unifyexlove@outlook.com or website info: http://reunifyexlove.webs.com that help people by casting spells, so I gave it a try. I contacted Dr. Grea and ordered for a love spell with the intention of not only bringing him back, but also getting him to move by me so that we could have a normal relationship. It worked better than I ever expected! One day he just stopped into my work and I almost fell off of my chair! I was so surprised to see him with a big smile and flowers! He told me that he got a new job in the area and moved here so that we could be together. He professed his love for me and how I make him a better person. I know it had everything to do with the love spell that I had cast by Dr. Grea via: Re_unifyexlove@outlook.com or website info: http://reunifyexlove.webs.com and also want to shout it to the world that his spells really make magic happen!

February 03 2016 at 3:47 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply