Paying Bills in a Divorce
If you and your spouse have decided to separate, things can get financially complicated. Whether or not both of you worked and contributed to household bills, those bills do not just go away when a separation occurs. The question of who is responsible for which bills is often not something that is clear cut. Making a mistake during the separation can affect what is ordered in terms of support during the divorce.
If you and your spouse are able to come to a mutual agreement over what expenses will be paid by which party, this might spare you a contentious, and possibly expensive, battle over money. During contested battles, a court may have to make this decision. It is almost always best to come to an agreement over which bills must be paid by whom, keeping the court out of the decision.
This kind of mutual agreement may not even be possible. In these cases, it may be better for a judge to take a look at each party’s ability to contribute and issue a court order designating who will pay for what bills.
When it is in your best interest to continue paying on an account, you should certainly do so. An example of this is when the account is a joint account. This means that the account is in both yours and your spouse’s name. Failure to continue paying or keep up with payments on joint accounts can affect not only your credit but can affect divorce proceedings later.
Some examples of common joint accounts are:
- Utility accounts: Electric, gas, water, and other household utilities
- Credit cards
- Leases and mortgages
- Automobile Leases and contracts
In Florida, it is not unusual for family-related expenses and bill responsibilities to fall on both parties until an actual legal agreement establishing financial responsibility is in place.
There are times when being a good person and continuing to make payments on accounts may not actually help you. While it certainly will not hurt, you will not receive any points or credit in court just for paying the bills. Unless you have a binding agreement to do so, it simply may not help your case. For example, continuing to pay a mortgage, whether it is in your name or a joint account, can leave you out the monthly mortgage amount. When it comes to property division, unless you have a binding agreement or court order, those payments might as well have come from your ex.
You might be tempted to continue making payments on bills even after you’ve left. While this might feel honorable and produce a good feeling, in the end, it may be little more than a good feeling. Even if the divorce is amicable, you still must protect your legal interests and rights.
Because there is no easy answer to the division of household expenses and who pays what portion of them, it is best to get an attorney on your side for advice. If you live in the Ft. Lauderdale area, consider contacting Mr. Frances for a free consultation.