Who gets which financial responsibility during a separation? That is a valid question in a country where about 40 percent of marriages end in separation or divorce.
Divorcing couples often face common day-to-day issues that get complicated by the divorce process. Which spouse is responsible for paying the bills depends on several factors, and no two divorces are identical. Only a qualified attorney can give you legal advice about your particular case, so seek a lawyer in your area if you have questions about your divorce or other family law issues.
Understanding Divorce Procedures
A divorce starts when a spouse files a divorce petition with a court. The divorce petition typically includes a list of assets and debts owned by either spouse. All such property must be accounted for before the divorce can be granted, and a court must ensure that ownership of all property is clearly divided between the spouses.
Couples can usually agree without having the court decide the issues for them. And they need to ask themselves crucial questions while trying to hammer out agreements. For example, who gets the rental property during the divorce? Alternatively, during separation, who pays the mortgage, especially if one spouse is renting while separated?
Remember, though, that if a court decides that your agreement is neither reasonable nor fair, it can nullify it and determine things very differently.
Considering Temporary Orders
Divorces can take a long time. After the divorce is filed and before the time the court issues its final decree, the court often issues temporary orders or injunctions. These orders limit what each spouse can do with marital property, often ordering both not destroy, sell, or otherwise dispose of any property outside of the normal course of business or day-to-day life.
Under such temporary orders, for example, a court can order that the couple continue to pay for rent until the divorce is finalized. And that is how a separated husband who stopped paying bills because he moved out can be forced to resume doing so for a while longer than he prefers.
Waiting for Final Orders
Once the court has accepted the divorce and gone through any procedural requirements imposed by state law, it can issue a final divorce decree that ends the marriage and ensures that all marital property is accounted for. For example, if a couple is renting a house, a court can order that one spouse is entitled to live in the house, and the other must pay alimony so the resident spouse can pay rent.
Handling Rental Agreements
The terms of your rental agreement are also critical when determining who is responsible for paying rent. In most cases, the spouse with their name on the rental agreement should pay the rental bill each month. Otherwise, the property owner may sue that person.
But in situations where both people have their names on the bills, it helps to pay one’s share or split the bills fairly. So, if you and your husband signed joint leases, both of you are responsible for ensuring the rent is paid according to the lease terms.
On the other hand, if only one of you signed the lease, it is up to that person to ensure the rent is paid until you can sort things out amicably. Failure to comply with the lease terms can result in eviction, which would be a terrible experience, especially if you have children.
Divorce is neither easy nor fun. But you can make it tolerable by being reasonable and fair in your dealings with your soon-to-be-ex-spouse. By agreeing quickly on how to share bills and assets, you can begin to heal earlier.
Roger Thorne is an attorney who began freelance writing in 2003. He has written for publications ranging from "MotorHome" magazine to "Cruising World." Thorne specializes in writing for law firms, Web sites, and professionals. He has a Juris Doctor from the University of Kansas.