Avoiding Surprise Debt
Obviously, both husband and wife are expected to meet any financial obligations taken on during a marriage. And, naturally, after a divorce is finalized, neither is responsible for the other's debts after that time. However, during the period known as separation, things can tend to be a bit more complicated. As a rule of thumb, debts incurred after the separation date are the responsibility of the party that generated such. However, the one notable exception would be those debts created by what are known as "family necessities". In other words, one spouse may run up a tab for things such as food, clothing, shelter, or medical care and may rightfully expect the other spouse to assume a portion of that obligation. Children by nature tend to create many of these family necessities. In the eyes of a court of law, it is these types of obligations that are of paramount importance.
It is also important to be aware that the general rule pertaining to separation period debt is not necessarily written in stone. It is possible and there have been many instances where a creditor will attempt to collect from one spouse an outstanding bill accumulated by the other during the separation period. Also, derogatory credit marks accumulated by one spouse may be indeed transferred to the other's credit standing, often without that spouse's knowledge. It is for this reason alone that it is never unwise to strongly consider the closing of all credit cards, etc., just after the decision to split is reached.
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DATE OF SEPARATION – Depending upon the laws of the state of residence, the Date of Separation – called the DOS – has a profound impact on the eventual division and distribution of property and debt, including credit, pension benefits, and other marital assets. As of the DOS, the separated spouses are now in limbo legally and financially and remain so until the actual Date of Divorce. A great deal of money may be at stake. For example, one spouse may share responsibility for any debts incurred by the other; the value of a retirement plan or other marital asset, such as residential property, may fluctuate, often by thousands of dollars.
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