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Tips for discussing debt during divorce mediation

Mediating a divorce allows parties to have more control over the outcome. This can be particularly beneficial when it comes to highly personal matters like dividing marital and/or divisible debt. 

According to various surveys, people often cite debt as one of the factors contributing to their divorce. As such, it can be helpful to know how you might address the various types of debt during your mediation session(s) in the pursuit of a fair property division settlement. 

Dividing debts

In some cases, parties decide to split debts down the middle and pay off debts right away. This could be an option for people who have one source of debt or small amounts of debt that both people incurred equally.

Splitting up obligations

When there are multiple sources of debt, you might distribute the various debts to the person who incurred the debt. For instance, if you have student loans, you might agree to be responsible for paying that off while your ex takes ownership of credit card debts he or she accumulated.

Keeping debt with one person

In some cases, one person might take on all the debt. This can happen for multiple reasons. He or she may be the one who incurred the debt before or during the marriage. Or, some people choose to take on the debt because they don't trust an ex to make payments and they don't want to wind up on the hook for payments the other person fails to make.

Before deciding for or against any of these options, here are some important factors to consider:

1. Is the debt even eligible for distribution, or is it a separate obligation of the person who incurred the debt?

2. Who has been responsible for payment of the debt(s) since separation?

3. How are you dividing the rest of the marital estate?

These factors will affect what a fair or equitable distribution of property will look like.

Finding the resolution that works for you

As is the case with any matter people resolve in mediation, there are no exact rules for what parties must do with regard to dividing debt. You will work together -- and with attorneys and your mediator -- to come up with a satisfactory agreement that best fits your specific situation. 

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