Among the most heavily contested issues in divorce can be the division of marital assets and debts and the eligibility of either spouse for financial support. These issues are resolved as part of the final divorce settlement or decree. But while the divorce is pending, there is still a need to meet household expenses and other ongoing costs. How those bills get paid is often an important practical concern.
During the divorce process, which can take several months in most cases, there is usually no court order directing who pays the bills. This can leave either of the spouses at an economic disadvantage. The situation becomes more difficult if one of the spouses has vacated the home. Should that spouse continue to contribute to the household expenses, including mortgage or rent payments? And should the spouse who remains in the home assume a greater portion of those costs?
Certain debts are jointly undertaken by both spouses, who remain jointly responsible even if the marriage dissolves. These debts typically include mortgage loans, car loans, credit accounts and other financing in both spouses’ names. There also may be costs of children’s day care, health care and private education that both spouses may be obligated to pay. While these are legal duties, as a practical matter it may be difficult or impossible for a lower-earning spouse to pay a sizable portion of the debts as they come due while the divorce is pending.
In some cases, to help ensure the family’s financial status quo continues during a divorce, the court will enter an order of temporary support on behalf of one spouse. This requires a special application to a judge, supported by proof of what would be an appropriate amount.
The alternative is for the spouses to enter an agreement documenting who is responsible for which ongoing expenses. If you are in this situation, the best way to start is to separate the bills into yours, your spouse’s and “ours” categories. Some debts, like your mortgage, are clearly joint obligations. On the other hand, your spouse’s golf club membership, your gym membership and your respective student loans are individual debts. However, don’t let the “ours” expenses slide. Make sure that someone is going to pay them or specify how you will be splitting the cost.
Make sure any plan you agree to is in writing and have the court approve it. Doing this will give you leverage to have the court enforce the agreement if your spouse doesn’t comply. To do this correctly, you need a skilled family law attorney with extensive experience handling the financial issues relating to divorce.
At the Henry Law Firm P.A. in Overland Park, Kansas, we are experienced in working effectively with individuals seeking to maintain their financial stability during a divorce. Call us at 913-381-5020 or contact us online to schedule your consultation.