– from Christopher W. in Jackson, WI
I’m approaching the tough decision to get a divorce. I’m having a hard time paying my bills the way it is, and I have no idea how I’m going to come up with money to pay spousal support should I be ordered to. What can I do if I can’t pay my debts?
Family Law Attorney Response:
Hi there. I’m sorry to hear that you’re going through two tough situations – financial issues and divorce. In many cases, the financial issues are a main pain point leading to the decision that divorce is inevitable.
There is a lot at play in regard to your question here and it would be in your best interest to consult with a family attorney about this before moving forward. A lot of debt related questions are better handled with a third party, especially if you’re having a hard time discussing this with your spouse.
It's good that you're thinking about spousal support but there are a few things that need to be addressed first. The biggest issue in the question you raise is whether or not the debt that you carry is community/joint debt (debt acquired after marriage) or separate debt (debt that solely belongs to you or that was acquired before marriage). Wisconsin is a community property state and it is very possible that some of that debt you're worried about is shared and will be split after divorce. And that shared debt can then be paid off by the sale of the family home or shared assets.
If the debt is from before your marriage, such as student loans or loans that were opened before the marriage – that is considered separate debt and you will be the sole responsible party.
As I've stated, there are many factors involved in coming to a sound answer to your question – and while I do advise you to speak with an attorney – if the debt solely belongs to you – here are some options for you have if you can’t pay your debts:
• Talk to creditors and explain that you’re going through a financial hardship. Let them know that you are dedicated to pay the debt but are now or are going to have trouble paying your debts. In some cases, creditors can reduce the amount of your payments or will possibly accept a payoff that is less than the actual amount you owe. The key here is to explore your options with them. Start a conversation and see what they can do for you.
• If it looks grim and you see no way that you’ll be able to pay your debts – you do have the option of filing for bankruptcy. While this option isn’t – it stays on your credit report for 10 years and could be a line item on applications for jobs, insurance forms and more – it has the possibility of completely ridding you of debt.
If you need help with the divorce process, please do not hesitate to reach out to Sterling Law Offices. We know that it can be complicated and confusing and we're here to help make is less of both. Also, if you're just starting to think that divorce is the right path – have a look at our divorce guide, created to help people get as informed as possible about the divorce process and all that it entails. We created it to help answer any preliminary questions those facing divorce may have.
Thanks for the question and good luck to you.