Divorce can be hard, especially when the cost of living is high and certainly when your marriage racked up a lot of debt. You’re probably wondering what’s going to happen to all that debt and how much of it you’ll be burdened with.

You may know that California is one of many states that have what are called “community property laws.” According to these laws, divorce courts presume that the property in your marriage is jointly owned by both spouses and should be divided “equally” in divorce, which typically results in a 50-50 split of assets or as close to it as possible.

Under these laws, the same idea applies to debts accumulated during marriage too, however, the debts aren’t necessarily always evenly split. Instead, debts are to be distributed “equitably,” which means the court’s intent is for the debts to be split fairly between you two, not mandatorily equally. Thus, the person who incurred a specific debt would probably have to pay a greater portion of it or pay for all of it.

For example, if your ex-spouse took out a student loan to pay for college, the court may decide that only the borrower should be responsible for that specific debt. If you have debts from a business, they might be separate from the debts of your marriage too. The same might be true about any spousal or child support obligations from another marriage, criminal fines and restitution payments you may owe. But those are merely hypothetical examples and may not be true in your case.

Legal assistance to see you’re treated “equitably”

Every divorce is different, and it’s impossible to generalize with certainty about how the court will distribute the specific debts in your situation. If you’re dreading the possibility that you’ll get an unfair amount of debt from your marriage, a smart and sympathetic lawyer can help. Talk to an experienced divorce attorney who can help protect your interests and get you the fairest treatment possible under California law when facing the financial complexities of divorce.