One unwelcome surprise for West Virginia spouses after a divorce is the fact that they may end up responsible for the debt that they did not incur. They need to take all of the steps necessary before the divorce to learn the debt situation and get a sense of what debt they will be obligated to pay.

The rule of thumb is that the spouse whose name is on the account is responsible to pay the debt. However, there may be accounts in the name of both spouses. In this case, both spouses must pay the debt back. Moreover, one spouse may have co-signed on the other spouse’s loan. Divorce does not remove their obligations as a co-signer. Thus, they will still be liable for the debt after a divorce.

A spouse can take various steps for self-protection if they know that a divorce is likely. The first thing that they can do is remove their name from joint accounts to keep the other spouse from running up debts in their name. The couple should try to agree on paying as much joint debt as possible before the divorce if it is possible. They should consolidate debt to make it as easy as possible to identify who is responsible for the debt when the divorce is final. This can preserve a credit score and the post-divorce financial situation.

If the spouses cannot agree on something like this, a divorce attorney would be vital to help protect clients from facing steep financial obligations after the divorce. They may have it written into the divorce agreement who is responsible for the debt or could negotiate a division of the marital estate to reflect the fact that their client is being saddled with a large amount of debt. After the divorce is final, a spouse may learn the hard way that they were not vigilant enough about debt beforehand.