In many divorces, the parties must divide the debts they owe as well as the property they own. If the parties agree about how to divide the debts, the court will include that agreement in the divorce decree. If the parties cannot agree about how to divide the debts, the court will do its best to divide them fairly.
Generally, if there is debt associated with the property (for example, a car loan), the person who keeps the property will have to pay the debt. Generally both spouses are equally responsible for joint debts incurred for a family purpose (anything that benefits the whole family rather than just one spouse). Generally, a spouse is not responsible for the other spouse's personal debts unless they agreed to pay the debt.
Other than medical expenses for minor children, the court's order on how to divide the debts is binding only on the parties. Creditors are not required to honor the division of joint debts, even if they have been notified of the order. Thus, if the spouse who is supposed to pay a debt fails to do so, the creditor may seek payment from the other spouse, who then has to try to collect the money from the one who was supposed to pay. For more information and forms for enforcing an order to pay debts, see our page on Motion to Enforce Order.
A creditor for medical expenses for minor children, who has been provided with a copy of the order, must honor the division of that debt.