According to the Federal Reserve Board, the average U.S. household in 2015 paid over 10% of its disposable income toward debt. Credit card payments, home mortgages, and car loans are common reasons people accrue debt, especially married couples. But when marriages end in divorce, this debt must be divided between the two parties, and how the court divides that debt depends on specific ways the debt was incurred and other marital issues.

Dividing Marital Debt in Rhode Island

When there is debt to be divided in a divorce, the court considers a few important factors to ensure a fair and equitable distribution of that debt between the two parties. Here is a brief look at those factors:  

Determining how the debt was incurred.

If a credit card, for example, bought items that both parties used, the amount on the credit card is considered shared debt. Because groceries, gas for a shared car, and family vacations were useful to both sides, the courts might opt to split any debt incurred for these things equally.

Determining who will keep specific items after the divorce.

If you and your spouse bought a television, a couch, a vehicle, or other property items on credit or with a loan, whoever keeps the items after the divorce will most likely be responsible for paying off that debt.

Determining which spouse has more earning capacity.

Courts often take into account whether both sides can evenly handle debt payments. If one spouse makes more than the other, the person with the higher income might end up with more of the debt payments.

Determining who asked for the divorce.

If the decision to divorce isn’t mutual, it is ending because of physical abuse or substance abuse, or because one party had an affair, the judge may take this into consideration when dividing the debt.  

Additionally, if both parties have debt in their own names, the court might order that they pay their own debts. Sometimes, courts will order that one spouse make payments toward the other’s debts if the debt amounts between the two are disproportionate.

Do You Need To Speak To A Rhode Island Divorce Attorney?

If you are considering a divorce you need to speak with an experienced Rhode Island divorce attorney as soon as possible. Please contact us online or call our Warwick office directly at 401.946.3200 to schedule your free consultation. We help divorce clients in Providence, Warwick and all areas of Rhode Island.


Jesse Nason
Helping Rhode Island residents with all of their family law, divorce and child custody needs since 2006.
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