One of the most important aspects of your divorce proceeding will be the division of your property or assets. Generally, property that you and your spouse acquire during the course of a marriage will be considered “marital property,” so it must be divided fairly. For example, if only one person works outside the home, the law considers his or her financial resources joint marital property.
Assets aren’t the only thing Minnesota law considers joint marital property. Debts can be, as well. This can seem unfair, especially when one person runs up a debt without the other spouse knowing.
Is Gambling Debt Joint?
Gambling debt can prove to be an interesting case, as the non-gambling partner might not even be aware the debt exists. These debts can get very large, very quickly, so they often pose a problem in divorce proceedings. Additionally, the gambling partner may go to great lengths to keep their addiction a secret.
In theory, both parties might be liable for such debts, which can add up to tens of thousands of dollars or more. If a gambling parent is expected to pay alimony or child support, this encumbrance may affect his or her ability to meet these obligations.
Impact on Divorce Negotiations
Finding out about a partner’s hidden gambling debt can further erode trust and make it more challenging to use an alternative dispute resolution approach, like mediation. After all, if you can’t trust your ex’s financial decisions—or rely on the accuracy of his reports—how can you negotiate in good faith? Consulting with a qualified divorce attorney right away can help minimize the damage and may even limit your liability for such debts.
Unfortunately, you may end up paying a portion of your spouse’s gambling debts. This seems fundamentally unfair, but consider it this way: what would have happened if your spouse won the same amount of money while gambling? It would be marital property and subject to equitable division. That is the court’s (general) reasoning behind shared debt.
A qualified attorney can work to ensure fair and equitable child support and alimony payments, even in wake of debt. For more information, contact the team at the law firm of Barna, Guzy & Steffen, Ltd. for a confidential initial consultation.