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The division of debt in a California divorce can be challenging

When a couple in California decides to end their marriage, one of the primary considerations will likely be property division of which debts may form a significant part. There might be questions about how debt is divided in a divorce, and getting answers is crucial because it could affect post-divorce financial stability. California is a community property state, which means that debts incurred during the marriage belong to both spouses even if only one spouse is named on a particular account. 

When debt is divided, secured and unsecured debt will be separated. Secured debt includes anything on which the lender or lienholder has a right to repossess if the buyers default on payments. Vehicle loans, boat loans and real estate mortgages typically represent a couple's secured debts, and lenders are not interested in the state of the marriage. For that reason, both parties will be held responsible for payments, and even if it each spouse is allocated certain debts to pay, any default can still mean repossession.

Unsecured debts -- which may include credit card debts, medical debt and such -- will be divided between the spouses, and again, regardless of whose name is on the debt. Some advisors suggest spouses settle as many accounts as possible before the divorce to avoid being responsible for an ex's debts or relying on him or her to make the payments. Once paid off, those accounts can be closed, and each spouse can open new accounts in his or her name.

While all this may seem overwhelming, an experienced divorce attorney can provide support and guidance with respect to the division of debt. However, some divorces take many months, or even years, to finalize and having a debt repayment plan established during the separation time may be wise. A California lawyer can assist with drafting a separation agreement to ensure this aspect of the divorce runs smoothly.

Source:, "How Secured And Unsecured Debt Is Divided During Divorce", Cathy Meyer, Accessed on Dec. 1, 2017

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