You went into your marriage not quite sure about what your husband owed in debts. You knew that you both went to school and had loans, and you were sure he had some debt from credit cards. Still, yours are reasonable, and you assumed his were reasonable, too. You lived comfortably, and you never expected his debts to be out of control.

Several years into your marriage, you decided that it wasn’t working. Your husband stopped coming home early in the day, so you never really saw each other. You got a new job, so you were driving further each day. You grew apart.

As you move towards divorce, you’ve found out that your husband’s debt accounts are more significant that you thought. What can you do to make sure you don’t end up responsible for them following the divorce?

Florida is an equitable distribution state

As an equitable distribution state, there’s no reason why you should have to take on an unfair amount of debt. Equitable distribution means that the debts and assets you own should be divided in a way that is fair. If your husband hid debts from you or was not honest about what he owed, there could be a real argument that you could make against taking on any of those debts.

Something else that can make a difference is the kind of property and debt you’re talking about. Did he take on the debts during your marriage? Are the debts in his name alone or also in yours? Determining which debts are marital debts and which are nonmarital matters. Nonmarital assets or debts are typically not shared between spouses.

Understand that the court generally makes an initial assumption that you’re dividing your debts and assets 50-50. That is the base arrangement, though, and not necessarily what will happen with your case. The court will typically consider factors such as the contributions you’ve made to your marriage, the economic circumstances you and your spouse are in separately and the duration of your marriage.

Is coming up with our own agreement better?

If you and your spouse can agree to the terms of property division, that may work in your favor. The court does have to review any arrangements you make to be certain that they are fair, but a judge is unlikely to challenge an arrangement that you’re both comfortable with.

Debts are hard to deal with, but with good planning, you may be able to get out of your marriage without being subjected to an unfair burden by your spouse’s debts.