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Should I worry about whose name is on the mortgage in divorce?

Most people know that divorce is the legal process by which couples end their marriage in the eyes of the state, freeing them up to be single individuals or to remarry if they so wish. But beyond this condensed version of the process, few really know what the process entails or how complicated it can become. Unless you're one of our readers who is currently going through or has gone through the process. For you, the complexity of the process is very evident.

As we have said before on our blog, people often have questions about divorce proceedings, particularly about its more subtle nuances, because these can be difficult to plan for. Take for example the mortgage you have on your home. Do you know who will be held responsible for paying back the debt after the divorce is finalized? Will you share the debt or will you or your spouse have to pay? Does the person's name on the mortgage dictate the distribution of the debt?

If you're wondering these same questions, you're not alone. Aside from credit card and student loan debt, a home mortgage is one of the most contested liabilities in divorce proceedings. What makes it so difficult to distribute is the fact that it may be considered both marital property and non-marital property. Let's take a look at how this might happen.

Consider for a moment a home that was purchased before marriage. The mortgage is in the name of one spouse but after marriage, the couple moves in and both make contributions to pay down the debt. Initially, the loan was considered non-marital property and would have been distributed to the spouse whose name appears on the loan during divorce. But because both spouses used marital funds to pay down the debt, it now becomes part marital property, therefore making it more difficult to divide equitably.

Because we are only able to scratch the surface with questions like this and because every person's case is unique, we advise today's readers to seek advice from a practiced family law attorney, such as those from our firm, to give more detailed answers to challenging legal questions such as the ones above.

Source: The People's Law Library of Maryland, "Property Disposition in Divorce," Accessed March 23, 2016

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