There’s an old saying: “You can divorce your spouse, but, you don’t divorce your debt.”
When you get divorced, often you’re still married to your debt. Washington State is a community property state, which means that the debts you incur during marriage are presumed to be joint debts. When you divorce, the judge must divide these debts between both parties.
However, realize the divorce decree affects the rights and responsibilities between the spouses. The divorce decree does not affect your creditor’s rights against each spouse.
Sometimes the debts are not split equally if both parties can come to a written agreement for paying back debt that is fair and equitable to them, or if one party can convince the judge that there is a good reason for not splitting the debt equally. Once there is an agreement, it’s included in the dissolution decree along with amounts owed for alimony or child support. If either party does not honor the decree, they can be taken to court for violating the agreement.
If one party fails to live up to the terms of the divorce decree, the creditor can still pursue the other spouse for collection. The same is true if the responsible party files for bankruptcy.
If you need to find out if your ex filed for bankruptcy, you need to know the district he or she would have filed in, and that person’s legal name or social security number. With this information, you can search PACER, which is the online court records system. You can also inquire at the courthouse in person.
If you are listed as a joint owner of any of the accounts listed in the bankruptcy filing, the creditor will notify you since they will want you to begin making payments. If this happens, you have two options: take your ex-spouse to court to enforce the divorce agreement, or file bankruptcy yourself. Which option you choose will depend on if you have enough money to pay the debt or not, and if that debt is more than the cost of taking your ex to court.
Over the past 23 years, the Law Offices of Christopher A. Benson has helped over 2,300 of Washington clients take control of their financial situation. We can stop your garnishment and change your monthly payments for all your combined unsecured debt, and if you have had more than $600 garnished within the last 90 days, we can get all of the money back in most cases. But you have to act quickly–call (253) 815-6940 for your free consultation, or email us today. Evening and weekend appointments available.
About the Author
Chris served on the Board of Directors for Habitat for Humanity
Seattle/S. King County for 10 years and served as Vice President
of the organization during part of that time. Read More