How Is Marital Debt Divided in an Illinois Divorce?

 Posted on June 16, 2020 in Property Division

Geneva asset division lawyerThe end of a marriage involves several legal steps and decisions. Determinations need to be made about many issues, including how property will be divided, if spousal support is appropriate, as well as child-related issues if a couple has a family. During the divorce proceedings, spouses may come to agreements on all of these matters. However, they may also argue over who gets what. In such cases, the court will intervene and make decisions on their behalf. When determining how a couple’s assets will be divided, Illinois follows the equitable distribution method. This also means that any marital debt will have to be split fairly. If you are concerned about what will happen to your debt once you are divorced, a knowledgeable divorce attorney can help navigate this complex issue. 

What Constitutes Marital Debt?

There are many reasons for the accumulation of debt. Money is often borrowed to pay for higher education, to purchase properties, or to start a family business. Each spouse may bring personal debt to a marriage, or in some cases, none at all. Marital debt refers to any debts that a couple accrues after they are legally married. Therefore, if one party had significant student loans or credit card balances that he or she racked up prior to the marriage, that would not be considered marital debt. Similarly, any loans or bills that are accrued after the divorce are the responsibility of the spouse who made the purchases or took out the loan.

Under Illinois law, spouses are responsible for each other’s expenses to maintain the household or support the family during the marriage. This can include buying food, clothes, and toiletries, as well as paying rent or mortgage, vehicle costs, and health insurance. If these items are not paid for outright, they may be charged to a credit card. For housing, the mortgage payments would be made through a bank loan.  

A few of the most common forms of marital debt include:

  • Student loans
  • House mortgage
  • Medical bills
  • Credit card balances
  • Vehicle loans
  • Investment debt

Determining Who Pays For What

Some couples draft prenuptial agreements to determine how marital assets will be divided ahead of time, but few consider how any collective debt that was incurred during the marriage will be handled in the event of a divorce. In Illinois, marital debt can be divided, but it will be split equitably, not necessarily completely in half or 50/50. This can be difficult if purchases are on shared accounts, or if they benefited both spouses, which would make them both responsible for paying off the debt after a divorce.

The court will consider different factors when deciding which spouse should pay off certain debts. These can include the standard of living, educational level and earning potential of each spouse, child custody, and more. For example, if one spouse did not work during the marriage and now has to find employment, they may not be held responsible for as much as their spouse.

One way to resolve the issue of marital debt is to pay it off before the marriage is legally dissolved. It is important to note that creditors can still come after either spouse for payment of any marital debt, especially if their names are on the accounts. 

Contact a Geneva, IL Divorce Lawyer

The division of assets and property in a divorce can cause much contention between you and your spouse. Not only do tangible items need to be divided, but any debt accumulated during the marriage will also have to be split. At The Law Offices of Douglas B. Warlick & Associates, we have over 35 years of experience resolving disputes for all types of divorce cases. Our dedicated Kane County asset division attorneys understand how to best protect your rights when legally ending your marriage. To schedule a confidential consultation, call us today at 630-232-9700.


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