Understanding Debt in Divorces: A Calgary Lawyer's Perspective

February 28, 2017

Financial concerns are paramount in many Calgary divorces, with questions of income differences, spousal support, the matrimonial residence and other jointly owned property, and splitting jointly-held bank and investment accounts among the first questions our clients typically ask. But as one of Calgary's premier family law and divorce law firms, we know that our clients also frequently encounter another financial issue that they don't always expect and rarely know how to deal with.


From home mortgages to credit card debt and vehicle loans, many people in Calgary carry some amount of debt. If you and your ex-spouse acquired such debt during your marriage, determining who is responsible for what amount of each debt can be a complicating factor in your divorce. The following information should help you understand your debt and how it might affect the outcome of your Calgary divorce.

Debts are Split Like Assets in Calgary Divorces

In the eyes of the law, a marriage is a legal partnership: you and your spouse become one entity, and any assets you acquire as a married couple—homes and cars you buy, investment accounts you build up, etc.—belong to the partnership. During a divorce, the Court attempts to determine how to divide any assets owned by the partnership so that each individual gets a fair share. The assets each person had before the marriage, the income each earned and other roles they played in the marriage (i.e. raising children and making a home), income potential after marriage and other factors are taken into consideration when determining an equitable arrangement.

The same is true of splitting debts at a divorce. Calgary judges—and Canada's divorce laws—aren't interested in determining who spent what on jointly-held credit cards, or who owes more on a home mortgage. Instead, they look at the same factors of income, marital roles, and so on, in determining a fair allocation of any remaining debt between you and your ex-spouse. If one individual earned substantially more income during the marriage, that person may be expected to pay more of any debt. If one person is keeping more property paid for with consumer debt like credit cards, that person may be required to pay more of the debt.

There are many other factors that can influence the splitting of both assets and debts during a Calgary divorce; you'll need to speak with a lawyer about the unique circumstances of your divorce to understand how you might be affected by this approach. No one contemplating a divorce in Calgary should try to run up large debts on jointly held accounts in an effort to pass that debt off on an ex-spouse, however, nor should you use jointly-held accounts to pay down debt that you and your ex-spouse have been living with for years. Both actions could potentially have a negative impact on the outcome of your divorce; speak with a lawyer before making any major financial decision.

Contact a Calgary Divorce Lawyer Today

If you have questions regarding marital debts and assets in your Calgary divorce, please contact our office to schedule an appointment today.

This entry was posted in Blog, tagged Divorce Law and posted on February 28, 2017

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