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Who pays what debts during a Washington divorce?

One of the most complicated aspects of getting divorced in Washington is often figuring out how to divide assets and debts. You may want to receive certain assets, or you may feel that you shouldn't have to help pay off debts accumulated by your former spouse. It can be frustrating, if you married a spendthrift, to have to accept a massive load of debt that you didn't accumulate during the marriage. Generally speaking, except in special or rare circumstances, you will be expected to pay half of the debt, regardless of who spent the money.

In cases of pre-existing debts, like student loans that originated before you married, you won't get stuck paying it off. Other debts, even student loans that got taken out during the marriage, could end up split evenly between you and your former spouse. Just like you will both share evenly in the assets you accrued during the marriage, the courts expect you both to pay a fair amount of the debts you built during the marriage as well. Regardless of who spent the money or whose name is on the account, debts from during your marriage will likely end up shared during a divorce.

Washington is a community property state

Every state has different rules and requirements for fairly dividing assets and debts during a divorce. Washington is a community property state, which means that the courts see all assets and debts accrued during the marriage as marital property. That means that both spouses should receive a fair and equitable split of these assets, regardless of who owned or owed what. This helps ensure that divorce is fair, even if one spouse made more than the other or one spouse never worked.

There are some exceptions to the community property standard when it comes to debt. If your ex was racking up credit card debt by taking an extramarital lover on trips, out to dinner, to hotels or buying that person expensive gifts, those amounts may get deducted from your responsibility during the divorce. The same may be true of extreme gambling debts or financial issues arising from drug abuse. Your divorce and family law attorney can help you determine if certain debts or spending may get exempted from the division process.

An attorney can help you fight for a better outcome

Getting divorced can leave you in a financial quagmire. You may end up paying off debts related to your former spouse's spending. Your best option for a positive outcome to a divorce with a lot of marital debt may well be working with an experienced Washington attorney who will fight for your rights. Don't just hope for the best during a divorce.

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