Divorce Attorney Nashville: Handling Debt During Divorce


Let’s face it, with the economy (specifically the job market) still struggling to stabilize and the prices of household utilities, gas, food and school tuition continuing to increase, the cost of living can be quite challenging for families to keep up with. In order to maintain the lifestyle they set out for themselves they have to swipe those charge cards and take out loans–sometimes on the house, car and most often on education for their children. Before they know it they’ve racked up a pretty significant debt. Debt is a burden for anyone to carry, married or single, but for the divorced, debt comes with a whole different level of complications. When a couple splits they no longer carry the financial burden as a team unless of course in the case that alimony is due. So what happens when they’ve incurred debt? Who is responsible for paying it off? As your trusted divorce attorneys Nashville we’re here to explain the implications of debt on divorce and to help you get it all sorted out.

Sorting out debt during a Tennessee divorce can be especially complicated as Tennessee statutes do not define any difference between marital and separate debt, nor do they provide advice as to how to separate the debts a married couple may have incurred during the marriage. However, luckily the 2003 case of Alford v. Alford cleared this up a bit. According to the Tennessee Supreme Court, marital debt is classified as “all debts incurred by either or both spouses during the course of the marriage up to the date of the final divorce hearing.” Just as marital property is divided between both parties in a divorce, any debt that’s incurred by one or both parties at any point during the marriage is considered to be the responsibility of both parties. It doesn’t matter who ran up this or that amount. When it comes to divorce the financial responsibility falls on both parties. This even applies to couples who have been living apart for years. In the Alford case the court dismissed the fact that the couple had been physically (not legally) separated for 10 years prior to the divorce, proclaiming that “[t]hey cannot be both married and divorced. Courts should not concern themselves with the type of living arrangements chosen by adult parties to the union.”

You see, it’s not “who owes?”, it’s “who owes what?” that can be tricky when dealing with debt during a divorce. After all, the last thing you want is to have creditors coming after you because your former spouse wasn’t able to pay his or her share of the debt owed. That’s why a qualified divorce attorney Nashville can be helpful in making sure that the financial burden is divided fairly between the parties.

In most marriages, responsibilities are usually divvied up, leaving one person in charge of the finances–a great system if both couples treat each other with integrity and are always open and honest about their spending. However, if the person controlling the finances is not so trustworthy they can get away with all sorts of things financially without the other party suspecting a thing. This happens all too often, where one spouse digs the marriage into a financial rut. That’s why any good divorce attorney Nashville will stress the importance of obtaining a copy of your credit report in order to save you from going into the divorce settlement with a blind eye. Remember, knowledge is power and can help you to negotiate the case in your favor.

While fiscal problems are problem enough for married couples, for divorcing couples they can be twice the stress. Both couples have to collectively take a blow to the pocketbook, only separately instead of together. This can be extremely hard to bear if one spouse has always relied on the other as the main household provider. As a means of trying to prevent anyone’s financial standing from becoming severely compromised, every divorce attorney Nashville is instructed by the Supreme Court to consider the following four factors when dividing debts among divorcing couples:

  • The debt’s purpose;

  • Which party incurred the debt;

  • Which party benefitted from incurring the debt; and

  • Which party is best able to repay the debt

Once responsibility for the debt has been allocated, each individual can then decide how they want to take care of paying it off. To ensure that the debt is paid off on time and in full it’s a good idea to consult with a divorce attorney Nashville about incorporating payment parameters into the final divorce decree. The attorneys at Cheatham, Palermo and Garrett have a thorough understanding of the laws involved in the division of marital debts and are here to support you through the process and guide you to a fair outcome. Take the first step toward resolving your legal issues by scheduling an appointment with us today (615) 790-0982!

The attorneys of Cheatham, Palermo & Garrett, are experienced in the interpretation and application of Tennessee family laws and have been committed to protecting the financial and parental rights of men and women in Franklin and throughout Middle Tennessee for more than 30 years. They bring a wealth of legal knowledge and experience to each case they handle, providing their clients with skilled representation in the areas of Divorce, Child Custody, Child Support, Prenuptial Agreements, Qualified Domestic Relations Orders, Music/Intellectual Property, and Juvenile Court.

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