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Understanding debt division in California divorces

California is one of the few states that recognizes community property. This means that when a couple files for divorce in California, their marital assets are divided equally, regardless of the circumstances. This is in contrast to equitable distribution states, which determine the division of marital assets based on the circumstances of the divorce and the contributions that each spouse made to the marriage.

While the outcome of asset division can, therefore, not be impacted by spouses at divorce in California, it is important to note that debts will not necessarily be divided in the same way as assets. The following is an overview of how marital debts are divided in California.

Equitable debt division

Marital debts are divided equitably in California. This means that the courts will consider many factors to determine the fairest way to divide the debts depending on the circumstances.

What is considered to be marital debt?

Any debt that was acquired by either spouse during the marriage, from credit card debt to mortgages, is considered to be marital debt. Therefore, any debt that either spouse acquired before the marriage will not be included.

What is an example of a situation in which the debt will not be divided equally?

If one spouse was solely responsible for the acquisition of the debt, the other spouse will likely be spared from the burden of acquiring the debt. For example, if one spouse earned a high income but acquired huge amounts of debt through gambling, they’ll likely take on most or all of this debt after divorce.

If you are considering filing for divorce in California, you should make sure that you understand how assets and debts will likely be divided in your situation.