When you get married in Ohio, you merge your lives together. This includes your finances. Therefore, depending on your circumstances, you may or may not be responsible for your partner’s debts.
Liability for marital debt
In general, both spouses are legally liable for any debt acquired during the marriage. This is true even if only one spouse signed for the loan or credit card. The judge, however, will divide that debt in a fair and equitable manner.
There are a few exceptions. If a spouse can prove that the debt was incurred for the sole benefit of the other spouse, then they may not be liable for repayment. For example, if one spouse takes out a loan to buy a car for the other spouse, the debtor spouse would not be responsible for repaying that debt in a divorce.
Another exception is if the couple has signed a nuptial agreement before getting married. This document can stipulate which debts each spouse will be responsible for in the event of a divorce.
How to protect yourself financially in a divorce
First, you should try to come to an agreement with your spouse about who will be responsible for which debts. If successful, put it in writing and have both spouses sign it. This will make it legally binding and will prevent either spouse from trying to hold the other responsible for debts they are not liable for.
If you cannot reach an agreement with your spouse, you can file for a divorce on the grounds of financial irresponsibility. This means that your spouse has racked up a large amount of debt and has put you in a difficult financial situation. You will need to provide evidence of your spouse’s debt and how it has negatively affected your finances. If the court finds that your spouse is financially irresponsible, they may rule that you are not responsible for their debt.
You should also consider filing for bankruptcy if you are facing a divorce and are worried that your marital debts will follow you after your divorce. The bankruptcy court will let you pay your creditors satisfactorily, then discharge some of your remaining debts.
Most couples often deal with all their debts before finalizing their divorce. However, if this isn’t a viable option, other approaches exist, like filing for bankruptcy or agreeing on split obligations, among others.