Divorcing spouses in British Columbia sometimes wonder who will be expected to pay debts that have been taken on during a marriage. Family debts are generally divided equally in the same way as marital assets, but there are exceptions to this rule. If the spouses have an agreement in place that specifies a different arrangement, the court will usually abide by it. A judge may also rule that debts not be divided equally when doing so could be considered significantly unfair.
These rules apply to debts such as mortgages, loans and repair bills that have been taken on during the marriage. However, debts that an estranged spouse takes on after a separation may be divided in the same way if the funds have been used to maintain family property.
Sometimes, the way that a debt has been incurred may lead a judge to decide that dividing it equally between the spouses would be significantly unfair. A judge could also rule that debts not be divided equally if the family property is worth less than the amount of the debt or one of the spouses lacks the income necessary to make the required payments. Judges may also take into account payments that have been made subsequent to the couple separating that have reduced the amount of the debt.
During a divorce, discussions dealing with the division of property or the allocation of debts can become highly contentious. An experienced family law lawyer may have encountered difficult negotiations, and they may be able to assist spouses as they search for a compromise. A lawyer could also recommend that a prenuptial agreement be drafted to avoid such conflicts.