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How is credit card debt divided in divorce?

You’re getting divorced, and you’re just as concerned about debt division as asset division. You know that your credit card account carries significant debt, and you want to know if you’ll be responsible for that or if your spouse will have to pay it off.

Illinois is an “equitable distribution” state. This means that the court will try to determine what is “fair,” even if they do not split the debt up 50-50 between the two of you. Odds are that you’ll need to take a portion of the debt and your spouse will take the rest. The exact percentages are different in every case.

Was it marital debt?

The biggest question to ask is whether or not it’s marital debt. If you had a joint credit card account, for instance, and you both used it, then the debt on that account is considered marital. It doesn’t typically matter which individual actually used the card to make purchases. It’s a shared account and has to be divided. That said, you could have marital debt even on separate accounts. Most debt incurred during a marriage is considered marital, even if it’s clear that one person is more directly responsible than the other.

Not all credit card debt is necessarily marital debt. If you or your spouse already had credit card debt that you’d accumulated on your own cards when you got married and you still have it when you divorce, it typically is considered separate debt.

If you and your spouse disagree on how much debt each of you should be responsible for or how it was created, things could get contentious. It’s important to understand how credit card and other types of debt are divided so that you can work to seek a fair division.