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Family Law | Matrimonial debt

What about the Debts?

Often debts are incurred by parties during a marriage. One of the most frequently asked questions is, who is responsible for paying them when a separation takes place.

To establish whether both parties are jointly responsible for a debt, or whether one party should be solely responsible for a debt, it is necessary to confirm why the debt was incurred.

  • Regardless of whether the debt was taken out in the name of one spouse, or as a joint debt, if the debt was incurred for the benefit of the family (i.e., both spouses have enjoyed the benefits of the money), then it is likely the debt will be considered “matrimonial debt” and both parties will be jointly responsible for repaying it.

  • If one spouse has incurred a debt and has had the sole benefit of the money, then the court may regard as separate from the calculation of the matrimonial assets.

  • A court may also take account as to whether debts have been incurred before or during a marriage.

If one party continues to run up the debts after a separation, this will need to be considered by the court.

Obviously, a worrying aspect of this circumstance would be that the debt being incurred may adversely impact on the solvency of that person and in the worst-case scenario may even cause them to become Bankrupt.

There is a limited amount that you can do to protect yourself in this situation, save for taking legal advice and seeking to progress any divorce as soon as possible.

If debts are being incurred on credit cards, then it would be prudent to consider whether it is possible to place restrictions on the card to stop further spending and to make sure that you have clear and accurate records of any debt incurred after separation.

If you require further information regarding matrimonial debt, please do contact our family department on 01823 251571 and ask to speak to either Amanda or Kris.


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