To protect yourself from paying more on marital debt than you should, you need to educate yourself and employ these nine protective strategies as you are preparing for divorce.
You should be aware that if your name was included in a contract with creditor, and your ex reneges on an agreement to pay it, you would still be liable to pay that debt or face credit problems and other consequences as a result. You may also be responsible for tax debts that your mate incurred.
1. To avoid surprises, make sure the financial statements of assets and debts are accurate.
You will want to obtain a copy of your credit reports and detail all debts so you can divide up the debt fairly in the divorce agreement. In a community property state, you could end up being responsible for half the debt that was accrued during the marriage, even if you weren't aware of it.
2. Add an indemnity clause to divorce agreement.
If you suspect your ex is not going to pay their agreed upon share of the debts, you would be able to take them to court to recoup the loss if your divorce agreement contained an indemnity clause and you were forced to pay a debt to protect your credit.
3. Apply for innocent spouse tax relief if you are being held responsible for a spouse's under-reporting of income.
If you find out your ex was not paying enough taxes by using dishonest strategies, you would also become responsible for that debt. If you can show that you had no knowledge of this at the time and were not benefiting from it, you can file an innocent spouse tax relief application for one or more years of accumulated tax debt.
4. Insist that the ex refinance an asset they want to keep.
If your ex wants to keep the house or an automobile and there is a substantial debt attached to it, you would be wise to insist that they refinance the item in their name alone. If there are consequences set out in the divorce agreement for failure to do so in a certain amount of time (such selling the asset) , they will be more motivated to get this done. You should not have your name removed from the title until they are making moves to refinance.
5. Liquidate assets and pay off as much debt as possible before the divorce is final.
The wisest strategy is to pay off as many debts as possible during the divorce. This would probably mean selling some assets and putting the proceeds towards the debt. You probably won't end up missing the item(s) near as much as having the satisfaction and security of re-entering single life as unencumbered and as unattached to your ex as possible.
6. Separate your financial affairs.
Get your own bank account and take your name off of any consumer credit accounts. If you want to continue a line of credit from a bank or a business, get a new account under your name only.
7. Consider joint bankruptcy if the situation is very bleak.
If you have accumulated a whole lot of marital debts together but have few assets and immediate prospects to pay off the debts, it may make sense to consider filing joint bankruptcy with your soon-to-be ex. If one of you does it alone, then the other will still be saddled with at least a portion of the debts. If you qualify for chapter 7, you could both have the fresh start that it would provide. It may take you years to rebuild your credit in this case, but it might be worth it.
9. Obtain expert advice.
To recap, work hard to list all your debts accurately, and make sure your rights are protected in the divorce agreement by including an indemnity clause and consequences for an ex's failure to refinance. Don't sign a joint tax return unless you know it is accurate, and apply for relief if you find out one or more in past years were intentionally inaccurate.
To protect yourself during and after divorce, you will need the advice of an attorney, and possibly a financial adviser. Contact a local finder service, like Metropolitan Lawyer Referral Service Inc, to find an attorney in your area.Share