The Difference Between Separate and Marital Debts

The most frequently asked question we receive regarding the division of debts is what the difference is between separate and marital debts. Our clients often wonder what they will be responsible for both during and after their divorce. A solid understanding of how marital debts will affect your divorce matter will prove invaluable for the sake of your current and future financial planning. Below are a few basic facts about marital and separate debts that will help you take the first step in navigating this issue in your divorce:

  • Arizona is a community property state. This means that any assets or debts acquired or incurred during the marriage are presumed to be for and on behalf of both spouses and each spouse has an equal interest in or an equal obligation for such assets and debts, respectively.
  • A community or marital debt is generally, with very limited exceptions, any debt that was incurred during the marriage by either party. Even if only one party incurred the debt or only one spouse’s name is on the debt, such as a credit card only in one spouse’s name, both parties will be equally responsible for the debt regardless if it was incurred during the marriage.
  • A sole and separate debt is generally a debt that was incurred by one spouse or the other, either: (1) prior to marriage; or (2) after the date of service of a divorce filing. Any debt incurred by one spouse prior to marriage remains that spouse’s sole and separate debt – the marriage itself does not make the other spouse responsible for it. With a divorce, the marital community technically ends on the date of service of the initial divorce petition or filing, so naturally any new debts incurred by one spouse or the other after the date of service are that respective spouse’s sole and separate debts as long as the divorce is eventually finalized.

Each divorce case is unique, and so is every individual’s financial situation. Whether you or your spouse have small debts, or large, significant debts, speaking with an attorney about how those debts will affect your future will help you gain control of your finances now and in the future.

To learn more about how marital debt may affect your legal matter, contact the attorneys at OWENS & PERKINS by clicking here or by calling our office at 480.994.8824 to schedule your FREE 30-minute consultation. We remain fully operational while practicing appropriate social distancing and cleaning regimes.