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Madison Debt Division Attorneys

Green County division of marital debts attorney

Lawyers Helping Divorcing Spouses Divide Their Financial Obligations in Dane County

When we hear about contentious divorces on the news or in celebrity magazines, the focus is frequently on the division of the couple's assets. Spouses may fight over who gets the family home, request substantial payments of monthly support, and hide assets from each other in an effort to keep as much as possible for themselves. While these types of stories certainly make for interesting headlines, the reality is that most couples do not have millions of dollars in assets to distribute between themselves, and they are not concerned about who gets which luxury vehicles.

However, most divorcing couples do need to address the division of the debts they acquired in their marriage and how those debts will be paid after a divorce. At John T. Fields & Associates, LLC, our experienced property division lawyers deal with this reality on a daily basis, and we can help you in navigating the division of debt.

The Division of Debt in Wisconsin

Because Wisconsin follows the principle of "community property" when addressing a married couple's assets and debts, all debts that were acquired during a couple's marriage are presumed to be owned by both spouses, and they must be divided during a divorce. Even if the debt is in one particular spouse's name, it can be assigned to either party during a divorce, because the court will presume that it was incurred for the benefit of both parties.

There are two exceptions to this general rule. First, any debt that a spouse acquired prior to the marriage and unrelated to the marriage is not a marital debt. This is a personal debt that stays with the spouse who acquired it. The court will not reassign these types of personal debts during the divorce process.

Second, either of the spouses can contest the presumption that a debt acquired during a marriage was for a marital purpose. For example, perhaps a husband took on a great deal of debt while going out to expensive restaurants and staying at luxury hotels while on work trips. Even though the debt arose during the marriage, the wife may be able to argue that it is not a marital debt because it was purely for the benefit of the husband and unrelated to the marriage.

It is important to remember that this can be difficult to prove to the court. If the debt is even tangentially related to the marriage, the court may find that it is a marital debt. For instance, if the husband argues that those expenses during work travel were necessary to impress clients, he might be able to show that they brought in business, which was ultimately for the benefit of the whole family.

Distinguishing Marital from Personal Debt

In order for a court to determine which debts must be divided between the spouses and which debts are personal, it must first do an accounting of the debts held by one or both spouses at the time of the divorce. At the beginning of the divorce process, the court will ask the parties to document each of their debts, including when the debt arose, what the debt was for, and what the current outstanding balance is. If either spouse believes that the other is hiding assets or misrepresenting debts, an accountant or investigator can sometimes be hired to do an independent evaluation of a couple's finances. Once all of the debts are taken into account, the court will then determine which debts should be split between the parties and which should be held by an individual spouse.

Consult an Experienced Madison Debt Division Lawyer

At John T. Fields & Associates, LLC, our skilled attorneys can work with you to analyze your existing debts and make a case with the court for limited liability on your behalf. To learn about our approach to debt division in a Wisconsin divorce, contact us at 608-729-3590 to set up a confidential consultation. We assist with divorce cases in Dane County, Columbia County, Green County, Rock County, Dodge County, and all of Southern Wisconsin.

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