When you divorce in Michigan, it is not just your property that is split between you and your spouse. Your debts will be divided too.
Sometime after the divorce, your former spouse is ordered to be responsible for certain debt and to pay what was owed. Soon, debt collectors are calling you asking for payments on these debts. Are you responsible for your former spouse’s debts after you divorce?
The nature and division of debt in a divorce
Debt can be separate or marital in nature. If the debt was taken on before you were married, it will be considered separate debt and is the responsibility of the spouse who incurred the debt.
But with a few exceptions, if a loan, mortgage, credit card or other debt was taken on while you were married, it is considered marital debt and is the responsibility of both you and your spouse. This is true even if the loan, mortgage or credit card is in your spouse’s name only.
In the property division process, the court will divide responsibility for marital debt between you and your spouse. Separate debt will remain the responsibility of the spouse who incurred it.
This division is based on equity. Sometimes, each of you will walk away from the divorce with the same amount of marital debt. Or sometimes, one of you will be responsible for a greater share of the marital debt if fairness warrants it.
What happens if the debt goes unpaid?
Still, creditors are not bound by a divorce decree. If a piece of marital debt has both your name and your spouse’s name on it, creditors can go after both of you for missed payments, even after you divorce.
To resolve this situation, you might want to consider closing all jointly held accounts and paying off the debts prior to divorce. If that is not desirable or possible, and you wind up having to pay a debt your spouse was responsible for after your divorce, you can file a motion with the court to have your former spouse reimburse you.