Most divorces are fraught with difficult issues and questions, especially where financial matters are involved.
In my years of practicing family law focusing on men and fathers getting divorced, perhaps no question is more troublesome to clients than who is responsible for paying the bills: Everything from the mortgage or rent, utilities, credit cards and bank and auto loans, to covering ongoing living expenses often gets wrapped up in all of the other emotional turmoil of going through the divorce process.
There are some fairly straight-forward answers to the question, “Do I have to keep paying expenses?”
Joint Assets, Joint Obligations for New Jersey Men Getting Divorced
For most men getting a divorce, the single largest and most-valuable asset is the marital home. In many instances, a mortgage on the home is the largest financial obligation and monthly payment. Regardless of who moved out of the home when a couple separates, both the husband and wife remain responsible for paying it every month. This is because the bank or mortgage company required both of you to sign when the loan was granted.
Beyond a couple’s joint responsibility for a mortgage, I often get asked about whether a man or father going through divorce in New Jersey is responsible for other debts and obligations such as auto loans or leases and credit cards.
Frequently, the answer is fairly straight-forward: If your name appears on the bill, you are responsible for paying it on time. However, if both names are on the statement, which can be the case for lines of credit or credit cards, then you both have a legal obligation to make the payment even if the card was only used by your former spouse.
Failing to pay a credit card bill that comes in both of your names can damage your credit as well as hers. This may make it difficult to obtain a mortgage in the future, even when your marriage and divorce are but a distant memory. Even if she ran up all of the charges, if your name is on the bill with hers the bank will be looking to you to cover her non-payment.
In any case, it is crucial to keep detailed records on what bills you paid after splitting with your wife. The information will help us when we negotiate a final settlement, as well as how we negotiate what she may want you to continue paying after a decree is issued.
Many men and fathers in New Jersey want to act “nobly” by continuing to pay all of the household expenses during a divorce. Sometimes, though, doing so is neither practical nor in your best interest. For instance, if a car lease is in your wife’s name and she uses it for her job, we would seek to ensure that she takes responsibility for the expense. You are neither driving the automobile nor are you benefiting from her income generated by her use of the car.
Other things such as school fees for your children, their medical expenses, clothes and the other costs associated with raising a child will be negotiated as part of any child support arrangement. Since you both created the child, you both will be responsible for the cost of their upbringing. New Jersey has a formula that courts follow in deciding which spouse is responsible for the percent of their financial obligation to their children.
If you or somebody you know is contemplating a divorce and have questions about both the financial impact on you and your financial obligations, please call me or one of our experienced family law attorneys for men and fathers in New Jersey. Reach us at either 973.562.0100 in Nutley or, in Montclair, at 862.245.4620.
You may also want to consider joining our support group for men and fathers going through a divorce in New Jersey. It meets regularly and you do not have to be a client to participate.