A wife’s efforts to escape responsibility for a $13,500 credit card debt her husband ran up mere days before the wife filed for divorce proved unsuccessful. The debt, incurred to pay for the college education of the couple’s daughter, occurred during the marriage and was not the result of intentional waste or depletion of marital assets, meaning that the courts must classify it as a marital debt for purposes of establish an equitable distribution of the couple’s assets.
This couple’s 27-year marriage was nearing its end by June 2011. Although the wife had informed the husband she planned to seek a divorce, she did not file immediately. Around the same time, the couple’s adult daughter was planning to start college in North Carolina that fall. The husband charged $13,500 on the couple’s Discover credit card to pay for the daughter’s college expenses. Four days later, the wife filed her divorce petition.
At trial, the wife stated that she had not planned to pay for the daughter’s college costs, but instead insist that the daughter pay her own way. The wife persuaded the trial court that the husband’s maneuver was an attempt to force her should a financial burden she never intended to undertake and that the husband should bear sole responsibility for the Discover card debt.
The 2d DCA reversed this ruling, however. The rule for distinguishing marital and non-marital debts, the court explained, is very straightforward. Unless the couple has a valid separation agreement in place, all debts incurred during the marriage are marital, barring special circumstances. The cut-off date for this rule is the date of the filing of the divorce petition. Because the wife filed on June 27, and the husband made the college-related charges on June 22 and 23, the Discover card debt was a marital one.
The wife could have avoided sharing the responsibility for the Discover card debt if she had proven to the trial court that the credit card debt was non-marital in nature. Types of non-marital debt might include debts one spouse racked up before the marriage began or debts defined as nonmarital in a valid written agreement between the spouses. Alternately, the wife could have proven that the husband’s actions constituted intentional waste or depletion of the couple’s marital assets. In cases of waste or depletion, a trial court may factor that waste into the equitable distribution. Because the wife established neither that the charges were nonmarital nor intentional waste, the appeals court determined that Discover card charges must count as marital debt.
Reaching an equitable distribution of the assets of a divorcing couple can be a difficult and complex process. The key reaching a truly fair result is ensuring that each asset and debt is correctly identified as marital or nonmarital. to assist you in this sometimes painstaking process, consult the South Florida family law attorneys of Sandy T. Fox, P.A. They have the knowledge and skill of helping families like yours to reach a conclusion that ensures that you get your fair share under the law.
Contact us online or by calling (800) 596-0579 to schedule your confidential consultation.
More Blog Posts:
Court Decision Highlights the Correct — and Incorrect — Ways to Establish the Value of Marital Assets, Fort Lauderdale Divorce Lawyer Blog, Jan. 7, 2014
Wife’s Work Improving Husband’s Office Building Converts Property to a Marital Asset, Fort Lauderdale Divorce Lawyer Blog, Dec. 5, 2013