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What happens to a couple’s debts during divorce?

On Behalf of | May 13, 2024 | Family Law And Divorce

Divorce not only dissolves a couple’s emotional relationship but also results in an untangling of shared financial responsibilities, including debt. Understanding how different types of debt are treated in divorce can help both parties make informed decisions about their rights and options

It is worth noting “from go” that each type of debt is subject to unique considerations and potential complications. While Arizona is a community property state, so most assets and debts acquired during a marriage are split 50/50 in contested divorce scenarios. However, there are exceptions to this rule. 

Credit card debt

Credit card debt incurred during the marriage is usually classified as marital debt and is typically divided between both parties equally. With that said, each party needs to understand which debts are in their name, as they could be held individually responsible for any debt accrued on cards that are (technically) solely in their name, even if the corresponding debt is assigned to their spouse in the divorce.

Student loans 

Student loans can be particularly complex. If the loans were acquired before the marriage, they are often considered separate property, and the original borrower remains solely responsible. However, student loans taken out during the marriage can be deemed marital debt. The division of this type of debt depends on factors such as whether the education benefited the marriage or increased the earning power of the spouse who took the loans.

Medical bills 

Medical debts incurred during the marriage are typically treated as marital debt. However, if one party can prove that the medical expenses were personal and did not benefit the marital partnership, they might be able to argue that the debt should not be shared.

Car loans 

For car loans, the person who retains possession of the car usually assumes responsibility for the associated debt. However, this is not automatic, and the division of this debt can be influenced by negotiations and other divorce settlement terms. It’s important to formalize the transfer of debt responsibility to avoid future credit issues.


Mortgages are often the largest shared debt couples face and can be the most complicated to resolve in a divorce. Options include one spouse keeping the home and refinancing the mortgage to remove the other’s name, or selling the home and splitting the proceeds. If the house is not sold, the spouse who does not keep the house should ensure their name is removed from the mortgage to avoid the risk of future liability.

Debt division can be just as complex as asset division. Therefore, spouses need to take an informed and thoughtful approach when navigating this process.