For most people in the United States, debt is part and parcel of everyday life. From credit cards to automobile loans to home loans and more, consumers may carry a variety of debt at any time.

When getting divorced, spouses must determine which debts may be considered joint and therefore subject to shared responsibility and dividing in a divorce settlement.

Shared debt before and after the divorce

In general, a debt account that features both spouse’s names may be deemed a marital debt. If a couple cannot repay the debt in full prior to finalizing their divorce, they must identify which spouse will assume responsibility for the debt after the divorce. The divorce decree would reflect this decision, but if the account continues to show both parties’ names, U.S. News and World Report indicates that the creditor may consider both spouses liable for the debt even after the divorce.

Mortgage liability and the family home

The Mortgage Reports explains that home loan lenders adopt the same approach, making it challenging when one spouse wants to keep the house after the divorce. If the person who stays in the home does not make the payments on time, the other spouse may be on the hook for the payments and any late fees.

Potential credit damage

In addition to liability for a debt assigned to an ex-spouse, a person whose name stays on a former spouse’s debt may find their credit report reflecting late or missed payments. Some people attempt to repay all joint debt before divorcing as one way of avoiding these issues.