Most married couples accumulate both assets and debts during the marriage. When a marriage ends, the court divides both assets and debts between the divorcing spouses.
How do Wisconsin divorce courts handle marital debts?
What is marital debt?
Both spouses must disclose all debts, regardless of which spouse is responsible for them. All debts acquired jointly or by either spouse during the marriage are usually marital debts. This means that even debts that are only in one spouse’s name are marital debts if either spouse acquired them during the marriage.
Debt acquired before the marriage, in support of a child or spouse from another marriage or because of a tort committed by one spouse is not marital debt.
Who is responsible for marital debt?
Per the Wisconsin Marital Property Act, any debt acquired during the marriage, including debts that only one spouse knows about, is jointly shared and the court will divide it during a divorce. Spouses may be able to contest liability for debts that they can prove were not acquired in the interest of the marriage or family.
Do creditors have to abide by the court’s division of debt?
Creditors are not obligated to abide by the court’s division of debts. If the party the court deems responsible for a debt fails to pay the debt, creditors may seek payment from the other spouse. However, that spouse can seek relief from the Family Court in some cases.
Because the default assumption is that debts acquired during the marriage are marital debts, if you want to avoid liability for a particular debt, you must prove that it is not marital debt.