You and your spouse are facing a divorce. One of the most pressing issues you face is how to divide your marital property. However, you have encountered another property division problem that you did not anticipate: how to divide your debt.

These are the basics that you should know about marital debt and how Wisconsin courts divide it among spouses.

What is marital debt?

Just as couples can accumulate marital assets, couples can also accumulate marital debt. Marital debt is debt accrued by one spouse or both spouses during the marriage. Some common sources include:

  • Credit cards
  • Mortgages
  • Auto loans
  • Medical costs
  • Student loans

There are a few exceptions that do not count as marital debt, including civil fines, judgments from a lawsuit and spousal or child support from a previous marriage.

How do courts divide marital debt?

Wisconsin is a community property state, which means that the courts divide marital assets and marital debt fifty-fifty between each spouse. Even if only one spouse accrued the debt, the court typically holds the other spouse equally responsible for it.

Fortunately, spouses do have the right to contest debts. Depending on your unique circumstances, the judge can assign ownership of a debt to just one spouse.

Debt and your divorce

The division of assets and debt is complex for every divorcing couple. It can also become very contentious. After all, no one wants to be responsible for debts that they feel belong solely to their spouse. Without a doubt, you want to reach a divorce arrangement that is equitable and that leaves your finances as strong as possible.

To achieve that end, you have the option of negotiating with your former partner to reach a mutually satisfactory settlement. If this is not possible, your case will proceed to trial. In either case, you may benefit from the advocacy of a skilled divorce lawyer. Your attorney can help you protect your assets and minimize your debt liabilities.