Getting married typically means combining your life and finances with someone else’s. Divorce requires separating your finances and your personal life from your former spouse. Certain circumstances can make that process much more difficult, such as when you accrued significant debts during your marriage. 

Given that North Carolina is a state that attempts to equitably split marital assets and debts, you may worry that you will have an obligation to repay debts that you never benefited from and didn’t incur. Understanding how the courts approach equitable division can give you a better idea of what liability for the household that you may have.

Both the date of the debt and the intent of the person incurring it matter

In general, the courts will seek to divide your marital property while leaving your separate property alone. Assets and debts acquired during your marriage become marital property owned by both spouses, while your assets and debts from prior to the marriage remain separate property unless you engage in commingling. 

Certain assets remain separate property, but typically debts incurred to support the family or the household will become divisible in divorce regardless of whose name is on the account. However, if your ex began racking up debt frivolously as a way to punish you for filing for divorce or if you can show that they diminished your marital estate, possibly by engaging in an expensive affair, you may not have an obligation to repay the debts incurred in that situation.

There are other scenarios in which you may not have liability for your ex’s debt as well, including if your ex will likely have substantially better financial circumstances than you after the divorce. The better you understand the nature of the debts and when you accrued them, the easier it will be for you to advocate for yourself during the property division process of your divorce.