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How Debt Is Divided in a Divorce in Florida


In Florida, the division of debt during a divorce is governed by equitable distribution principles. This means that the court aims for a fair, though not necessarily equal, division of both assets and liabilities. Florida courts classify debt as either marital or nonmarital. Non-marital debt, such as obligations incurred before the marriage or after separation, usually remains with the individual who incurred it. If you’re looking for help with your own unique financial situation, consider working with a financial advisor.

Types of Debt That May Be Divided During Divorce in Florida

First, you need to understand the differences between marital and non-marital debt in a Florida divorce. Marital debt includes any liabilities incurred during the marriage, regardless of which spouse’s name is on the account. Conversely, non-marital debt includes liabilities one spouse brought into the marriage or acquired individually after separation. Generally, only marital debts are subject to division.

Here is how some debts are dealt with in Florida during a divorce:

  • Credit card debt: Credit card debt accumulated during the marriage is typically considered marital debt in Florida. This includes balances on cards used for joint expenses or individual purchases, as long as the debt was incurred before the date of separation. The court will assess the purpose of the spending and allocate responsibility accordingly.
  • Mortgage debt: If a couple owns a home, the mortgage and any home equity loans taken out during the marriage are considered marital debts. Even if one spouse plans to keep the home, both may still be responsible for the outstanding mortgage balance. The court often factors in the home’s equity and may require the spouse to retain the home to refinance to remove the other spouse’s liability.
  • Car debt: Auto loans for vehicles purchased during the marriage are another form of marital debt. Similar to mortgage debt, the court will decide how to allocate the responsibility for these loans. If one spouse keeps a vehicle, they may be required to refinance the loan in their name alone.
  • Educational debt: Student loans can be a more complex issue. If the loans were taken out during the marriage and used for living expenses or to support the family, they may be considered marital debt. However, if the loans solely benefited one spouse’s education and career, the court might classify them as non-marital debt.
  • Medical debt: Medical debt incurred during the marriage is usually considered marital debt. This includes bills for both planned procedures and emergency medical care. The court will consider the nature of the expenses and how they benefited the family when deciding on the division.

You may want to speak to a professional lawyer who specializes in Florida divorces to get legal advice on your own unique situation.

How Premarital Debt Is Divided

In Florida, the division of debt in a divorce is generally governed by the principles of equitable distribution, which aim for a fair division based on the nature and origin of the debt. As we already covered, premarital debt is generally considered the responsibility of the spouse who incurred it. This means that debts that either spouse brought into the marriage will typically remain with that spouse after a divorce.

However, there are exceptions to keep in mind. For example, if premarital debt was paid using marital funds or if the debt was refinanced during the marriage, it might be considered marital debt. The specifics will depend on how the debt was handled and the evidence provided.

Additionally, if there is a prenuptial agreement that addresses debt division, the terms of that agreement could take precedence as long as the agreement is valid and enforceable. Also, if there are special circumstances, such as one spouse benefiting from the other’s premarital debt during the marriage, the court may consider these factors in its decision.

Therefore, you should keep documentation that shows how the debt was incurred before the marriage. This includes loan agreements, credit card statements, or any other relevant financial records.

What Is Non-Marital Debt?

A couple in Florida trying to divide debt during a divorce.

Non-marital debt typically includes any debt that one spouse brought into the marriage. For example, if one spouse had student loans or credit card debt before getting married, those obligations are generally considered non-marital. Additionally, debts acquired during the marriage but specifically in one spouse’s name and for their sole benefit, such as personal loans taken out without the other spouse’s consent or knowledge, may also be classified as non-marital.

Clear and convincing evidence must be presented to establish that a debt is non-marital. This may include loan agreements, statements showing the origin of the debt, and records demonstrating that the debt was not used for marital purposes. In Florida, the burden of proof lies with the spouse claiming that the debt is non-marital.

Preparing for Divorce If You Have Debt

In Florida, the court also examines the purpose of the debt during a marriage. If one spouse incurs debt for personal reasons unrelated to the marriage, such as gambling or an extramarital affair, the court may assign that debt to the responsible spouse. Conversely, debts incurred for household needs, such as children’s expenses or joint ventures, are typically shared.

Financial transparency can benefit you during a divorce. Start by collecting all relevant financial documents, including bank statements, tax returns, property deeds and retirement account statements. Florida follows the principle of equitable distribution, which means assets and debts acquired during the marriage are divided fairly, though not necessarily equally. Having relevant documentation will facilitate a smoother division of assets.

If you have children, their well-being is likely your top priority. Florida courts encourage shared parental responsibility, aims for both parents to remain actively involved in their children’s lives. Prepare a parenting plan that outlines how you and your spouse will share time and responsibilities. The court will review this plan to ensure it serves the children’s best interests.

Bottom Line

A couple meeting with an attorney in Florida to determine how they could divide debt during a divorce.

There can be many different types of debt to consider during a divorce. Once you understand how the debt was incurred and what that means for your divorce proceeding, it can become easier to make sure you’re preparing the right documentation to maximize your own financial protection. Since the rules are often debated in terms of when the debt was incurred and what for, it’s important to have an attorney on your side who understands the rules in Florida.

Tips for Financial Planning

  • A financial advisor can help you with all of your financial needs from long-term retirement planning to navigating complex situations like preparing for a divorce. Finding a financial advisor doesn’t have to be hard. SmartAsset’s free tool matches you with up to three vetted financial advisors who serve your area, and you can have a free introductory call with your advisor matches to decide which one you feel is right for you. If you’re ready to find an advisor who can help you achieve your financial goals, get started now.
  • If you’re looking to save money for the long haul, consider using a savings calculator so you can estimate how much your money might grow over time.

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