Family Law Blog

Divorce: Are You Responsible for Your Spouse's Debts?

Thursday, February 14, 2019

If you are thinking about divorce or in the midst of one, it's good to know whether or not you are responsible for your spouse's debt.

During the Marriage

California is a community property state. This means that property and other assets are owned by the couple jointly. As counterintuitive as it may seem, debts are considered negative assets by divorce courts. They are therefore subject to the same principles as assets. Debts are held in common just as assets are. Therefore, one spouse is responsible for the other's debts, even if only one spouse incurred the debt.

So spouses are both responsible for a jointly incurred debt, such as a mortgage or vehicle loan that both co-signed. Each is also responsible for debts the other incurred solely. In other words, if your spouse opened a credit card or obtained a personal loan during the marriage, you are responsible for the debt.

The key here, though, is that both spouses are responsible only for debt taken on during the marriage. If your spouse incurred debt in their name before the marriage, you are not responsible for it. So if your spouse is still carrying credit card debt on a credit card opened when they were single, you are not responsible for that.

After the Divorce

Community property rules no longer apply after the divorce. Any debt incurred after you are divorced is the responsibility of the party who incurred it.

The only exception is if you continue to maintain joint accounts (on bank or mortgage accounts, for example) or the debt is taken to repair jointly held property, such as a home or boat. In that case, because the accounts or property is held jointly, you would be equally responsible.

If you need to speak to an attorney about divorce, contact us. The first consultation is complementary.

Divorce: Considerations of Changing Your Name in a Divorce

Thursday, February 07, 2019

woman speaking with divorce lawyer

Sometimes, women who are getting divorced consider reverting to their maiden names. This is a relatively simple procedure in California and can be done by your submitting your proposed Judgment (Form FL-180) for divorce. Your attorney will let you know what you need to do. Even if you don't elect to change your name at that point, it can be done after the divorce, by filing a Petition for Change of Name. This is slightly more complicated, but still a relatively simple procedure.

More important than the steps, however, is the decision itself. If you are a woman who took her husband's name, or part of a couple who hyphenated their surnames, dissolving the marriage can raise complicated feelings about what your name will be after it. It's important to note that changing the name will not have any impact on the financial settlement or divorce decree. Nor does it have any impact on legal responsibility once the divorce is finalized. You will never, for example, be responsible for a spouse's bills or other obligations because you share a last name. Even if creditors track you down because of the surname, you are a legally separate entity once the divorce goes through. You have only to tell them you are divorced.

So what are the considerations you should think about when deciding to change your name in a divorce?

1. Your feelings about your ex-spouse

If you and your spouse are amicable, it may make no difference to you whether you keep the name or not. If the divorce is a painful one, however, your feelings about your spouse may color your feelings about your surname. If it would make you feel better, you may want to revert to your maiden name or remove the hyphenated name. If you don't want to do that, you can change your name to a third option of your choice.

2. Your feelings about having the same name as your children

Some people would prefer to have the same name as their children or think the family name should be held in common. If this is your married name, you may want to keep it. But changing the name of both yourself and your children is also an option.

3. Your feelings about a fresh start

Some people see their divorce as a time of new beginnings. If it would support that feeling to change your name, it can definitely be an option as well.

Do you need to discuss divorce with an attorney? Contact us.