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How do Tennessee courts divide non-marital vs. marital debt?

On Behalf of | Dec 8, 2023 | Divorce, Family Law

In any marriage, you share more than just emotions and memories with your partner. You also often share property, assets and, unfortunately, debts. When couples divorce, deciding who takes on these debts can be a complex process.

In Tennessee, debts are are considered part of the property division process during a divorce and therefore are classified as either marital or non-marital. But what does this mean for you?

The distinction between marital and non-marital debt

Marital debt is any financial obligation you or your spouse incurred during the marriage until the final divorce hearing. These debts can take various forms, such as:

  • Credit card debt
  • Mortgages
  • Car loans
  • Medical bills

In the event of a contested debt division, the dispute typically proceeds to a court hearing. The judge evaluates the evidence and makes a ruling based on these factors.

On the other hand, non-marital debt refers to financial obligations that you or your spouse incurred either before the marriage or after separation. These debts usually remain the responsibility of the spouse who incurred them. As a result, courts do not divide the payment of this debt between spouses during divorce proceedings.

How courts assign the payment of debt

Regarding the allocation of debt, courts follow the principle of equitable distribution. This principle doesn’t necessarily imply an equal division, but rather a fair one. The court determines debt allocation by considering factors such as who incurred the debt and each spouse’s ability to repay it.

The division of marital debt becomes a critical consideration when your marriage concludes. Governed by Tennessee laws, this process ensures a balanced distribution of assets and liabilities. In seeking an equitable division, the court considers the comprehensive financial history and current circumstances of both you and your spouse.