Aside from distributing property, it is also crucial to consider how Texas courts divide debt between divorcing spouses. If you are getting divorced, you need to consult with a McLennan County divorce lawyer to help you determine how your property and debts will be divided in a Texas divorce.
How Do Texas Courts Divide Debt in a Divorce?
If spouses agree on how to divide marital assets and debt, the court will most likely approve their agreement. However, if the spouses are unable to negotiate a property settlement, they will submit their dispute to the judge to decide on the division of assets and debts.
Texas is a community property state, which means any assets and debts acquired and accumulated during the marriage will be divided between the spouses.
But does it mean Texas courts divide assets and debts equally, as in a 50/50 split? Not necessarily. Texas law requires courts to divide debt fairly. Under Texas Family Code § 3.002, any property acquired by either spouse during the marriage is considered marital property, except:
Assets acquired by gift, devise, or descent during the marriage;
Property owned by either spouse before the marriage; and
Personal injury damages recovered by either spouse during the marriage (the only exception is recovery for the loss of earning capacity).
In other words, Texas law considers any debts incurred by either spouse after getting married and before their separation date to be “community” debt.
Can Creditors Collect Debt During or After a Divorce?
Divorce proceedings do not affect creditors’ right to collect spouses’ debt during or after a divorce. Thus, even if you obtain a decree of divorce, your creditors will still have a right to collect the debt.
In fact, even if the judge assigns the debt to one spouse, debt collectors can still come after the other spouse if that spouse is a joint debtor. For example, if a mortgage is in both spouses’ names and only one spouse keeps the family home, they have to refinance the mortgage to remove the other spouse’s name from the joint debt.
What Types of Marital Debt is Divided in a Texas Divorce?
When it comes to dividing debt in a divorce, it is vital to consider all of the debts incurred during the marriage. Common types of marital debt that may be subject to division upon a divorce include:
Credit card debt
Those are the types of debt that married couples typically accumulate during the marriage.
Since Texas is a community property state, debts acquired during the marriage will not necessarily be assigned to the spouse who incurred them. Instead, both spouses may be equally responsible for marital debts, even if one of the spouses incurred debt without the other spouse’s knowledge.
In this situation, you should speak with an attorney to discuss your options.
What Are the Options for Dividing Debt in a Texas Divorce?
Unfortunately, you cannot use a one-size-fits-all approach to divide your debt in a divorce. Each case is unique, which is why the best option for dividing marital debt will depend on the unique circumstances of your marriage, the types and amounts of debts, as well as the extent of your separate and marital property.
However, there are plenty of options for dividing debts to choose from. Consider talking to an experienced attorney to determine how best to divide debt in your particular case:
More assets, more debt. You and your spouse can negotiate a property settlement to award more debts to one spouse and more assets to offset the liabilities.
Sell assets to pay the debt. The spouses may agree to sell community property to pay off or reduce the debt.
Split assets and debt equally. You and your spouse may agree to divide the marital assets and debt equally.
Each of the above-mentioned options has its benefits and drawbacks. It is vital to consult with a knowledgeable divorce attorney to help you determine the best solution for dividing debt in your particular situation.
How Can You Protect Your Credit Score After a Texas Divorce?
If you and your spouse accumulated lots of debt during the marriage, you would have to pay off joint debt following a divorce. If you miss payments or cannot pay back debt in time, your credit score can take a hit.
For this reason, you need to take measures to protect your credit score following a divorce.
Monitor your credit report to look for any errors or inaccuracies. Some of the debts that were assigned to your spouse may still appear on your credit report. In that case, you need to contact the credit reporting agency to remove the debt from your credit history.
Change your passwords, information, and PINs. There is still a chance that your former spouse may use your credit cards and bank accounts if they know your passwords and PINs. This may happen if your ex-spouse holds a grudge or wants to make your post-divorce life difficult.
Get a credit card in your own name. Once you close your joint credit cards after a divorce, it may be a good idea to open a credit card in your own name to start rebuilding your credit history or improving your credit score.
Contact a McLennan County Divorce Lawyer Today
If you are considering filing for divorce in McLennan County or elsewhere in Texas – or are already in the middle of divorce proceedings – it is advisable to consult with a licensed attorney to determine how your marital assets and debts will be split.
Our attorneys at The Law Office of Brett H. Pritchard will help you understand how Texas community property laws work when splitting debt upon divorce. Schedule a free consultation with a McLennan County divorce attorney by contacting us online or by calling 254-501-4040.