When people divorce, asset division is typically one of the major concerns they have. People want to know who will get what and what their financial situation will look like. However, your assets are not the only factor that color your financial picture. Debt can also have a major impact on each party’s monetary status and responsibilities post-divorce.

The average person between the ages of 23 and 38 has nearly $28,000 in personal debt, much of which comes from credit cards and student loans. Therefore, debt will very likely be a point to address during a divorce if you are in this age group, which is why it is important to understand some basic tips to dividing debt.

  1. Talk about it before divorce. Of course, this may not be helpful for people who are already in the process of divorce. However, if you are about to get married or are already married, you can create a prenuptial or postnuptial agreement that sets guidelines for how (and if) you will divide your debts.
  2. Know the difference between equal and equitable. Dividing assets and debts often means that each party will receive about half of the marital property or financial liabilities. However, because Illinois is an equitable division state, there is no law stating that the division must be equal. Instead, it must be fair and just.
  3. Determine what is a marital debt. Generally speaking, only marital property is eligible for division. Separate property, including debts acquired before marriage, can stay with the person responsible for incurring the debt. Note, however, that separate debt can become marital debt under many circumstances.
  4. Contact the credit card company. Your divorce will not automatically terminate your responsibility for debt assigned to the other party if you are an authorized user or joint account holder. Unless you contact the credit card company to officially remove yourself from the account, you could still be liable for any payments your ex might miss. Further, missed payments by an ex has the potential to damage your credit score.

Considering the fact that millions of people carry some amount of personal debt, it is likely that you will have to address debt if you are getting divorced. Knowing what to expect from the process can help you manage your expectations and make informed decisions.