One day you’re doing just fine in your marriage, with two sources of income, and two people to help pay the bills. But what happens if you wake up one day and your spouse has left you a letter saying “I want a divorce” and there’s no sign of them anywhere? Divorces are stressful, complicated, and painful. You have to decide who gets custody of the children, and what assets go to who, and so on and so forth.
But it may happen that your ex moves out of your house, and now you’re stuck with all the bills: credit cards, mortgage, household and healthcare. What can you do about it? While it may seem like you are in deep trouble, there are options available that a divorce lawyer can help you with.
What is marital and individual property?
When you are getting a divorce, the things you own and the things you owe are divided among the two of you. These are called assets and debts. The items that the two of you acquired together (and maybe charged to your credit cards) in wedded bliss are called marital property. Anything you bought or acquired previous to your marriage, or after your separation, is called individual property. These terms matter when you are getting a divorce because they dictate how your property (assets) and any money you owe (debts) will be split between the two of you.
When your spouse leaves, they may also leave you with all the debts and bills to pay, and the question remains: do you have to pay them when the other person who usually pays or helps pay for them has got up and walked out of the house?
Do I have to pay my ex-spouse’s bills?
When it comes to debt in a divorce, the short answer is: if your name is on those bills, then you need to pay them. If the debt is on your own personal credit card, then you need to pay it, no matter if your spouse was helping you pay before getting a divorce.
Now, if that debt – such as a joint credit card account – has both your names on it in a joint account, then you and your partner are responsible, no matter who accrued the debt. Both you and your spouse can easily find yourselves in a bad place financially if your debts aren’t paid off. It’s a good idea that you have your personal credit checked so you can make sure that you know what you have to pay, and what both of you have to pay.
Let’s talk about the mortgage for a minute
If you’re like most couples, this is the biggest debt you have – and the property that’s worth the most, too. If both of your names are on the mortgage, you both have to keep paying. If it’s only your name on the mortgage, then you have to keep paying. Remember: the bank doesn’t care where the money comes from; it just wants to money.
Now, if your name is on the mortgage but the payments come out of a joint account, you’ve got a solid claim that the house is marital property, and we can help with making sure you don’t lose out on your fair share of the profits once it sells. But until it does, remember: the bank doesn’t care WHO pays.
However, if one of you wants to keep the house for yourselves, then you need to contact the mortgage company to sort things out. As your income affects the types of loans or second mortgages you may need to apply to in order to pay off the first mortgage on your home, it may be better to sell the house instead. You and your spouse should meet or at least an agreement should be reached on paying the mortgage while the two of you wait for the house to sell. In many cases, debt from the mortgage may be assigned to the higher-earning spouse, or the parent who was given full custody of the children.
What about the car loan?
The same rules are applied to any auto loans. If both of your names are on the car loan, then you have to pay the loan, undergoing the same steps and processes that you had to for your mortgage. If one of you defaults on an auto loan, then both of you are in trouble. But if it’s only in your name, you have to keep making those payments until you can reach some kind of agreement because – say it with me, now – the lender doesn’t care who pays, as long as someone does.
How can a Knoxville divorce lawyer help me?
Divorces are not fun for anyone involved. They’re complicated and messy, take up your time, and they come with a lot of life changes, both personal and financial. You should not be stuck paying all of the bills yourself, when your former spouse may also have to be paying on them as well. Don’t let yourself get hit by any more costs than are necessary.
LaFevor & Slaughter are old hands in the divorce business, and we know exactly what we’re doing. We prepare arduously for our clients so that when push comes to shove, we’re ready to shove back. We make you our priority, taking only a few clients at a time. We’re dedicated to those we have promised our time and hard work. If you are going through a divorce, then let us handle all the complicated matters; you have enough to deal with. To learn more about how we can work to get you the most out of your divorce, call us in Knoxville today at (865) 637-6258 or use our contact form.
As the Managing Attorney with LaFevor & Slaughter, Jason R. Hines handles new client consultations, strategic planning and implementation and represents clients in all the Firm’s practice areas.
As an attorney practicing law in Tennessee since 2009, Jason has represented clients from all walks of life in a wide range of cases in the State and Federal Courts of Tennessee. His practice areas include divorce, family law and immigration.