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Division of Debts


If you are seeking a Georgia divorce, one of the issues you may need to address is the division of marital debts. Although the term “division of assets” is more often used, the term applies not only to assets but also to marital debts. This can be a thorny issue, particularly if there are significant debts at stake. Individuals in the Atlanta area can consult the family law lawyers at the Law Offices of Thomas C. Rowsey for guidance in these matters. We have extensive experience assisting residents of Roswell, Sandy Springs, Alpharetta, and other communities throughout Fulton, DeKalb, and Cobb Counties.


In Georgia, marital assets and debts must be divided “equitably.” This does not mean equally, but “fairly,” in accordance with what a family court deems appropriate.

All debts of the spouses are either separate or marital. Certain types of debts are relatively easy to classify. For example, if one spouse had an outstanding student loan debt incurred prior to marriage, that debt would be the separate debt of the spouse who incurred the debt. As a general rule, debts that pre-date the marriage are separate debt.

However, debts incurred by the couple during marriage would be considered marital debt. Typical examples include a home mortgage or an automobile loan. The court can require the spouses to share these debts, or it may also allocate the entire debt to one or the other spouse. For example, if one spouse intends to continue in possession of the marital home as part of the division of assets, or the spouses each take possession of the vehicles that they were accustomed to driving, the court might decide to allocate the remaining debt on those particular assets according to who is going to retain each of them.

Marital debts generally include any debt the couple incurred either together or individually in the course of their married lives, even if the debt may be in the name of one spouse. For example, if one spouse holds a credit card with an additional card issued to the other spouse, debt incurred on that card would be marital debt, and the court would likely require it to be shared. This may be true even if, for example, the husband and wife used the card for items intended for themselves individually, such as if the wife purchased clothing or the husband purchased a golf club membership. As long as the expenditures were normal and accepted by the couple as part of their marriage and were consistent with their standard of living, the court will not generally quibble with the actual dollar expenditures of each spouse.

However, it should be noted that the credit card company retains the contractual right to collect from the individual with whom it has made the credit card agreement, regardless of the court’s allocation of debt. A spouse who is forced to repay a debt owed by the other spouse may have recourse through contempt and enforcement proceedings.

There are some marital debts that courts are unlikely to require the spouses to share. For example, if one person recklessly incurs debt from gambling, foolhardy or extravagant investments, or flagrantly wasteful spending, the court may not require the non-participating spouse to shoulder any portion of that debt.


Properly allocated assets and debts are an important aspect of your divorce settlement. The first step is making sure to account for all assets and debts that exist, both separate and marital, in order to avoid misunderstandings and unresolved disputes later. In some cases, marital assets may be used to eliminate outstanding debts in order to simplify the allocation between the spouses. Our Atlanta attorneys are ready to assist you with any issues that may arise during your divorce, such as property division. If you would like to find out more about your options and how we can help with the division of debts, call us at (770) 993-5317 or use our online form to set up a free appointment.

Thomas Rowsey, Attorneys at Law

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GAAW Wright

Tom has been our attorney for many years. He has been with us through thick and thin. He has successfully handled all our queries and cases with patience and understanding. We highly recommend Tom!

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My family and I moved to Roswell from Chicago over ten years ago. At that time, we were referred to Tom to assist us with some of our legal needs. Since then he has become a trusted friend we consider to be our family attorney. The comfort in being able to speak candidly with him and know that he understands our concerns is invaluable. Tom is a man of integrity, vast experience (more than 25 years), who has an exceptional knowledge of the law. Impeccable ethics and an unparalleled work ethic make him an outstanding attorney who is capable, though, and diligent. I recommend him highly to anyone in need of sound legal counsel.

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At all times for the duration of my case, Tom demonstrated professionalism, confidence, and honesty. At no point was I pressured to make any one decision over another, but Tom did his best to inform me about the consequences and benefits of all of my options. If he did not know some specific detail regarding my case, he made the effort to find out. Tom instantly exudes trustworthiness and was always in steady contact. I would recommend his services to anyone.

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I met Tom over 10 years ago after settling in Roswell with my family. I have learned over the years that Tom is a man of high integrity, genuine and extremely knowledgeable in his field. Along with being honest, he is a straight shooter and will let you know where you stand. He will provide you with personal attention you don’t get at bigger firms and will go the extra mile. As legal matters can be frightening to deal with, Tom will guide you through the process and get you the results you need. You couldn’t ask for a better person to be fighting for you.