Dividing your property is often a very contentious part of a pending divorce. Couples in Connecticut are likely to focus on their biggest assets when trying to divvy up their marital possessions. What fewer people stop to think about is the impact of debt on the divorce and the overall value of the marital estate.

If you are like most Americans, you and your spouse have probably racked up thousands of dollars of debt over the course of your marriage. Your debts also need to be split up as part of the divorce process.

The goal in all property division decisions is fairness

The equitable distribution law in Connecticut focuses primarily on creating a fair outcome based on the family’s needs and circumstances. Trying to find a fair way to split up debt can involve multiple tactics. The courts might split individual debts and have each spouse pay a part of them. They might assign specific debts to each spouse, or they might even use the debts to offset more assets given to one spouse. Your income, expenses and other factors will influence which approach will work best for your family.

Which debts are typically divided in divorce?

As with the division of your property, the division of your debt only applies to marital debt. The balances accrued before you got married will likely remain one person’s responsibility, while debts from during the marriage are likely to be divided.

However, debts accrued in secret, such as gambling debt incurred by a spouse lying to their partner, may not be subject to division. Additionally, debts accrued by one spouse for a purpose that did not benefit the family, like an affair, may also wind up excluded from property division proceedings in the divorce.

Establishing the value of the debts and which amounts should remain separate is an important step before you divorce. Your attorney can assist you.