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

Goal Setting

Want to succeed? Then you need goals!

View Course »

How much house can I afford

Home buying 101, evaluating one of your most important financial decisions.

View Course »

Add a Comment

*0 / 3000 Character Maximum

59 Comments

Filter by:
Derek Natasha

Hi, my name is Derek Natasha. I have been in great bondage for almost 2 years suffering in the hands of a cheating husband,we were happy and leaving well until he meant his old time girl friend and he started dating her outside our marriage before you knew it he stoped caring and taking care of his own family it was to the extent that he was planning to get married to her and divorce me his own wife, i have cried and reported him to his family but he never listened to any one but to cut my story short i came in search for a real spell caster who could destroy their relationship and make him come back to me and our 2 kids on my search i saw people making testimony on how their marriage where restored by Dr.Trust i pick his email and i narrated my story to him and he agreed to help me and after performing a spell on the second day both had a quarrel and he beat his girlfriend up and he came home begging for i and my little kids to forgive him that his eyes are clear now that he will never do any thing that will hurt his family again and promise to be a caring father and never cheat again.I am so so happy that i did not loose him to the girl. all appreciation goes to Dr.Trust for you are a Great spell caster and to whom this may concern if you have a cheating husband or wife or you need your ex lover back again. you can as well email him on (Ultimatespellcast@hotmail.com or ultimatespellcast@gmail.com or ultimatespellcast@yahoo.com) or you can call him +2348156885231.

1 hour ago Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
MarisaJames

my name is Marisa James,i am From GERMANY I never knew I could be happy again cause my life turned in a mess by my ex boy friend named James, cause the love I had for him was incomparable, I loved him with all my heart but he dumped me just because of any other girl, ever since then I have never been my self cause I love James and think of him every seconds of my life so I cant just let him go like that cause I think he is the love of my life, so I decided to go on research on net on how to get lost lover back. At hot mail blog that was how I saw a lady who testified the great things which Dr.AYO did for her after reading I was convinced to give a try to Dr. AYO to see if he can help me also. So that was how I contacted him greatayosolutiontemple@gmail.com and told him my problem. So when I told him my problem he just told me not to worry that I will have James back within 48hours, I was so surprised, I he call me and all he said was that he was so sorry for everything that happened,. I was so surprised and was short of words cause I could not believe what I was hearing. So that was how James came to me and now we are living happily than ever before. My friends out there who needs help I will advice you contact Dr. AYO for help. You can reach him via: greatayosolutiontemple@gmail.com..

13 hours ago Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Austine Best

Do you need 100% Finance? I can service your financial need with less payback problem that is why we fund you for just 3%. Whatever your circumstances, self employed, retired, have a poor credit rating, we could help. Flexible repayment over 3 to 20 years.Contact us at:austinebest9@gmail.com

1. Full Names:............................
2. Contact Address:.......................
3. Loan Amount Needed:....................
4. Duration of the Loan...................
5. Direct Telephone Number:.................

Best Regards,

Mr Austine

Sunday at 12:33 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Andrew Chapman

These comments you see on the internet about Dr Malaika (odogwumalaika@gmail.com) are not just comments, they are truthful words of experience written by those who have been there and found help
in reuniting with the ones they hold dear to their heart and other marital and financial problems. I can tell you this because I also asked him for help to cast a spell to fix my relationship with the only woman I have ever
loved after been married four time in the last four years cos i didn't believe in love but in the power of being rich. When it came to meet my wife it was different
because I fell for her in every way. At the time i met her it was only a while before the relationship became serious cos I bet she love me also.
We moved in together and our relationship blossomed. we got married but couldn't have a baby and then I discovered my wife was barren. I had to try some spell casters but to no avail
until I contacted Dr Malaika. HE restored my wife's womb and just like that she got pregnant, she has given birth now and our baby is growing. I later casted a money spell through him
which he did and today we are rich and doing very fine. Thank God for our lives and also to Dr Malaika who God has used to blessed us. I know that not everybody will believe this moreover its just something
on the internet but my heart knows every of this word that formed this entire comment is true. Am Leaving Dr Malaika's contact for those who believe this and need help as well. his contact is:
odogwumalaika@gmail.com

October 13 2014 at 8:05 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Rita5432

Dr. Telemi is a trust worthy spell caster and he will be of great help to you. I never believed in spell casting but After 4 years of marriage my husband left me because I lost my womb, and i was unable to give birth to children. I felt like my life has come to an end, and i almost committed suicide, i was emotionally down for a very long time, but thanks to this spell caster called Dr. Telemi whom i met online after my friend Tracy James told me how he also helped her to bring back her husband in less than 2 days. I believed her and decided to give Dr. Telemi a try and i contacted him on his email Telemisolutiontemple@yahoo.com and explained my problems to him. He laughed and told me that In less than 2 days, my Husband will come back for me again, and that he will restore my womb and i will give birth to children. At first i thought it was a lie but i took courage and believed as Dr. Telemi has said and it did happen just as this Great spell caster said, My husband called me and was crying, apologizing for forgiveness. I forgave him and today i am so glad that all worries and problems has gone away, and we are even happier than before, another good news is that i am pregnant now, and very soon we are expecting our baby. Dr. Telemi is really a gifted and a powerful spiritual man and i will not stop publishing him because he is a wonderful man. I advice you all If you have a problem and you are looking for a real and genuine spell caster to solve all your problems just Contact Dr Telemi on his email on Telemisolutiontemple@yahoo.com at anytime, because he will always help you to solve all your problems. Once again thank you Dr. Telemi. Thank you, thank you.

October 12 2014 at 7:05 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
James Hansce

My name is Lorna Harron, and I base in USA...My life is back!!! After 2 years of Broken marriage, my husband left me with two kids . I felt like my life was about to end i almost committed suicide, i was emotionally down for a very long time. Thanks to a spell caster called Dr jaja , which i met online. On one faithful day, as I was browsing through the internet,I came across allot of testimonies about this particular spell caster. Some people testified that he brought their Ex lover back, some testified that he restores womb,cure cancer,and other sickness, some testified that he can cast a spell to stop divorce and so on. i also come across one particular testimony,it was about a woman called Sonia,she testified about how he brought back her Ex lover in less than 2 days, and at the end of her testimony she dropped Dr jaja e-mail address. After reading all these,I decided to give it a try. I contacted him via email and explained my problem to him. In just 48hours, my husband came back to me. We solved our issues, and we are even happier than before Dr jaja, is really a gifted man and i will not stop publishing him because he is a wonderful man... If you have a problem and you are looking for a real and genuine spell caster to solve all your problems for you. Try High pekokospelltemple@gmail.com anytime, he might be the answer to your problems. Here's his contact: pekokospelltemple@gmail.com

October 11 2014 at 4:36 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Maria Cooker

This is my testimony about the good work of a man who helped me....My name is maria cooker ... My life is back!!! After 8 years of marriage, my husband left me and left me with our three kids. I felt like my life was about to end, and was falling apart. Thanks to a spell caster called papa ork who i met online. On one faithful day, as I was browsing through the internet, I was searching for a good spell caster that can solve my problems. I came across series of testimonies about this particular spell caster. Some people testified that he brought their Ex lover back, some testified that he restores womb, some testified that he can cast a spell to stop divorce and so on. There was one particular testimony I saw, it was about a woman called grace,she testified about how papa ork brought back her Ex lover in less than 72 hours and at the end of her testimony she drop papa ork e-mail address. After reading all these,I decided to give papa a try. I contacted him via email and explained my problem to him. In just 3 days, my husband came back to me. We solved our issues, and we are even happier than before. papa ork is really a talented and gifted man and i will not to stop publishing him because he is a wonderful man...If you have a problem and you are looking for a real and genuine spell caster to solve that problem for you. Try the great papa ork today, he might be the answer to your problem. Here's his contact: orkstarspell@gmail.com Thank you great ork. Contact him for the following:

(1)If you want your ex back.
(2) if you always have bad dreams.
(3)You want to be promoted in your office.
(4)You want women/men to run after you.
(5)If you want a child.
(6)[You want to be rich.
(7)You want to tie your husband/wife to be yours forever.
(8)If you need financial assistance.
(9)Herbal care
10)Help bringing people out of prison
Contact him today on:
orkstarspell@gmail.com or visit his web site. www.orkstarspell.webs.com

October 10 2014 at 10:20 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Robertp Dimple

Hello
I am Steven Roberto Dimple From Usa, i am writing this article to thank Dr. Ovia the powerful spell caster that just helped me recently to bring back my Wife that left me for another man for no reason. After seeing a post on the internet by Mitchelle Andres saying how she was helped Dr. Ovia, i also decided to contact him for help and i am also happy that he helped me also and today i can proudly say that my Wife is now with me again and she is now in love with Me like never before. Viewers reading this who wants help and wants to contact Dr. Ovia should contact him via his email address: or you call him +2347067610698..
You can also call me with my number if you want to know more +15022552717
Thanks..................

October 08 2014 at 7:35 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Robin Laura

I have been in great bondage for about 4 years suffering in the hands of a cheating husband. We were living happily until he meant his old time girl friend and he started dating her again outside our marriage and before i knew it he stopped caring for his own family, to the extent that he was planning to marry her and divorce me. I cried and reported him to his family members but he never listened to anyone and to cut the story short, i came in search for a real spell caster who could destroy their relationship and make him come back to me and our 2 kids again; on my search i saw people sharing testimony on how their marriage was restored by Dr. Eze Malaka and i pick his email and told him the problem that i was going through, and he agreed to help me and told me never to worry. After he had finished casting the spell, on the second day, they both had a quarrel and he beat up his girlfriend and he came back home begging me to forgive him that his eyes are clear now that he will never do any thing that will hurt his family again and promise to be a caring father and never to cheat on me again. I am so happy that i did not lose him to the girl and all appreciation goes to Dr. Eze Malaka for his great work. You are a Great spell caster and to you all that are faced with this or similar problem to this, please contact him now on extremewhitelovespell@yahoo. com or his WEBSITE ADDRESS is http://extremewhitelovespell.webs.com once again thank you Dr. thank you, thank you.

October 08 2014 at 6:04 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Julio David

Hello
I am JULIO DAVID from BRAZIL, When I eventually found testimonies about this spell caster Dr.imesagbor, how he helped many people to get their lovers and broken homes back, i contacted him through his email address dr.imesagborspellcaster@gmail.com because I was absolutely desperate to get my wife back. Life without my wife was a real mess for me and my children. i wanted a dramatic change and I thought magic could be the solution. After discussing the resolution with Dr imesagbor, he gave me hope that he will restore my marriage. I felt confident that he will actually make my wife to return home and he did! It’s fantastic what this great spellcaster have done for me, his help is priceless! I don't know what I would have done without Dr.imesagbor, Dr imesagbor does his job so well he is organized and highly functional, i believe he is the best spell caster i can count on when it comes to all kinds of spell, I was floored that his spells worked, if you need help, contact him on dr.imesagborspellcaster@gmail.com and i assure you things will turn around for you....

October 03 2014 at 10:18 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply