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How Are Debts Divided in a Wisconsin Divorce?

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Dane County, WI divorce lawyerOne of the most common issues that comes up when discussing the topic of divorce is the division of assets that the couple has acquired during their marriage. When a couple makes the decision to divorce, those assets need to be divided between the two of them. The majority of states use the equitable distribution principle, which means that each spouse will receive an equitable share of the assets, but not that share will not necessarily be 50 percent. However, Wisconsin is a community property state, which means that in most cases, a couple’s assets will be divided in a 50/50 split.

One issue that many do not consider is that the debts of the marriage also need to be included in the division of the marital estate. The following is a brief overview of how this division is often done. For more detailed information about your situation, consider speaking with a divorce attorney.

Identifying Marital Debt

The first step in deciding how a couple’s debts will be divided is identifying and categorizing which debts are marital and which debts are separate. Marital debts are those that were taken on during the marriage and used for the benefit of the family and/or household. Separate debts are those that were acquired either before the couple was married or after the couple separated. In most situations, the marital debt will be divided, but the separate debt will remain the responsibility of the spouse who incurred the debt.

Some examples of common marital debt include mortgages, credit card balances, vehicles, and personal loans that were acquired during the marriage. Any debts that are co-signed loans and joint accounts are also considered marital debts.

Factors in Distribution of Debt

Once the debts have been categorized, the next step is to divide responsibility for each debt. In some cases, the couple may decide on their own how to divide the debts. However, if they cannot reach an agreement, the court will step in and make the determination based on Wisconsin law and equitable principles.

The court may order one spouse to assume a higher portion of the marital debt if certain factors exist. Some of these factors can include:

  • There is a significant income disparity in income between the two spouses.

  • One spouse engaged in significant financial misconduct, such as hiding or dissipation of assets.

  • One spouse can show to the court that the other spouse incurred the debt without their knowledge.

Contact a Dane County Divorce Lawyer for Legal Help

If you have decided to end your marriage, make sure you have a skilled Madison, WI divorce attorney advocating for you and ensuring your financial interests are protected. Call John T. Fields & Associates, LLC at 608-729-3590 to schedule a confidential consultation and find out what legal options you may have.


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