Ft. Lauderdale, FL-When a couple divorces, there are many things to consider. Child custody and property division are chef among them, but debts are often forgotten in the process. Overall, Americans carry approximately $14.4 trillion dollars in debt in the form of credit cards, mortgages, car loans, student loans, and medical debt. The average American has at least three credit cards, and has an average balance of $15,000. So, when it comes to time to unravel a couple’s finances in divorce, those debts are part of the process.

Some debts belong to a spouse only, and are not generally affected by divorce. For instance, a wife opens a credit card account in her name and is used exclusively by her. She is responsible for paying those debts, and vice versa.

Debts accumulated and shared by a couple can be divided between each spouse to pay. When one spouse has a higher income than the other, they may be asked to pay a larger amount of those debts proportionate to their income. Creditors are not even involved in this process, and expect a couple to pay the debt, regardless of their marital status. If they don’t receive payment, they will pursue anyone who vowed to take responsibility for the debt.

When who is responsible for paying a debt is matter of debate, then retaining a divorce attorney is the best way to resolve this issue.  Debts racked up by a husband to carry on a secret affair is one situation where who owns a debt could be matter of contention. During divorce settlement negotiations, issues over, who accumulated the debt, and who should pay it, is as important as how a couple’s property is divided.

The marital home is typically a couple’s most valuable possession, and also their largest debt. The marital home can be awarded to one spouse or it can be sold and the proceeds divided between the divorcing parties. If one spouse keeps possession of the marital home, and there is still a mortgage payment, who pays all depends on the final divorce settlement. The mortgage payment can be split evenly or one spouse can be ordered to pay it in its entirety. How that works out the end depends on each spouses’ income. A higher-earning spouse may be asked to pay a larger portion of the mortgage. Or, the spouse living in the home is solely responsible for the mortgage.

Should one spouse refuse or fail to pay a debt or support payment they are responsible for, there are ways to compel them to pay, but there is no way to guarantee they will. Property liens and court orders can be enough to but the court can’t garnish their wages or use other means to collect those debts.

Dividing debts can be can be as difficult, and as an emotional issue as dividing assets and determining child custody. Debts should be divided equitably and a divorce attorney understands that. In any divorce case, their goal is to assure their clients receive a fair financial support along with an agreeable child custody arrangement.