When Illinois couples divorce, they face serious changes in nearly every aspect of their lives. One of the most challenging often arises over the financial alterations that nearly always take place when two people separate. A divorce lawyer would likely tell Des Plaines clients to expect a significant reduction in financial stability, since the state requires that all property, including debt, must be divided as part of the divorce process.

When a couple marries, they typically decide to combine their income into joint accounts, but what some people may not realize is that many of their debts become shared as well. As a marriage ends, a couple must follow state mandate to equitably distribute marital assets as well as marital debt.

What is considered marital debt?

In Illinois, the court considers any debt incurred throughout the duration of a marriage to be jointly held, as long as it was used for joint purposes. A debt may only have one spouse’s signature on the contract, but if both parties benefited from the funds, a judge views it as part of the marital estate. Some of the most commonly held marital debt include the following:

  • Mortgages
  • Auto loans
  • Credit cards
  • Business debt
  • Student loans

Any debts incurred before a couple weds is viewed as separate property, unless the funds were used during the marriage as well.

Which spouse is given responsibility?

Unfortunately, debts do no simply disappear when a couple chooses to divorce. A divorce lawyer would explain that a Des Plaines couple’s lender would still expect repayment, and the court must decide which spouse should be responsible for each shared debt.

Following equitable distribution laws, a judge must attempt to divide all marital property as fairly as possible. This may mean that debts and assets could be uses to balance each other. For example, if one spouse is awarded a larger asset, he or she may also be required to take responsibility for a larger debt. However, in some cases the judge may simply choose to assign debt to the spouse whose name is on the contract or who received more benefits from the loan.

Alternative options for dealing with debt

Some couples may choose to wait until they file for divorce to consider what to do with their marital debt, but others may decide to avoid the process of property division altogether by working to pay off the balance prior to filing. When this alternative is feasible, it may prevent complications during divorce proceedings.

For many couples in Des Plaines, working with a divorce lawyer can help make the process of dividing marital debt smother and less contentious.