“In A Divorce, Who Pays The Bills?”

So you’ve filed for divorce, you’ve separated residences, but you’ve got a problem: you have a lot of mutual bills, and neither person wants to pay them. These can be utility bills, insurance bills, cell phone bills, car payments, mortgage payments, credit card bills, or even time-shares or IRS payments. The issues can be very difficult, particularly because you now are supporting two households on the same income that used to support only one.

In the short term, although you can ask a judge to decide who pays for what (and this is wise if there are a lot of bills, or if you think the divorce could take some time), usually the party with the most income or the most to lose (credit and otherwise) ends up picking up the tab initially. This is simply a practical matter, and is subject to credits, as discussed below.

When a judge divides up debts, the first thing a judge will usually do is assign debts that are attached to an asset to who has the use of the asset. This is not a hard and fast rule, but a general rule. The person living in the family home is responsible for the mortgage, if you take a car you’ll make the payment on that, etc. Then other bills are divided up by ability to pay, and also by who is benefited by the payment.

All payments made during a separation period, unless they are made as part of support (there are cases where the court will order one party to pay the mortgage on a house the other party lives in directly to the mortgage company and deduct it from the total support payment, for instance) they are subject to credits at the time of the final financial dissolution. These are generally called Epstein Credits (payment of a community debt with separate property earnings) and Watts Charges (charges to one party for ½ of the value of a community property asset used exclusively by one spouse during separation).

Negotiation whether or not charges and credits will apply can be a key part of the setting of initial orders for finances during a divorce.

DISCLAIMER: All legal principles quoted are valid as of the date of writing in the State of California. However, you should NEVER base your actions on a legal article, blog, or internet story, as facts in real life are complicated. You should have your case evaluated by an attorney experienced in the area of law needed for your case. In addition, there are often exceptions and potential changes to results that occur due to facts that you may think are trivial or unimportant. This article should not be taken in any way as legal advice on your specific legal matter.

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