Co-parenting and money: Is a co-parent’s debt your responsibility?

Is a co-parent's debt your responsibility?

Co-parenting and money: Is a co-parent’s debt your responsibility?

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Your co-parent has gotten into a lot of debt. Could this co-parent’s debt be your responsibility? Here are some things to consider.

I want to start this by saying you should always talk to a financial professional in your own state or province. You should also talk to a tax lawyer and a divorce/family lawyer. This is just a brief guide on what you can expect when it comes to co-parenting and money.

When I first separated from my ex-husband, I looked at what would happen to debts. Would I be responsible for him getting into debt before our divorce was finalized? It turns out no. In Ontario, finances are separated on the agreed date of separation. His debts are his and mine are mine.

The only debt that would affect me is any joint debt. We had a car loan and that was it. That’s been paid off, so financially, we are completely separate.

That doesn’t mean his debts won’t affect me in some way, though. Here’s how a co-parent’s debts could affect you, even if your state or province says that his are his and yours are yours.

What it means for the children

I’ll continue to use my ex-husband as an example. Right now, he agreed to pay certain things for the children. If he gets into a lot of debt and can’t afford those items, then that means I’m going to be financially impacted.

I shouldn’t be, no. His financial problems are not mine. If he chose to get into a lot of debt with no way of paying it off, that’s not a me issue. I don’t need to put any money toward his debt to pay it off as it doesn’t directly impact my credit or my finances.

However, it could impact the children. They may not be able to do their dance lessons because of his financial decisions. I could have to agree to take on some of the payments if they want to remain in dance lessons. Or I could leave it up to him to explain why our daughters can no longer do the things they like because of his decisions.

That is a hard decision as a parent. I want to do what’s best for the children, but why should I be impacted by his bad financial choices?

What it means for child support and spousal support

Now, I get neither of these. I won’t go into the details, but this is something we agreed upon. That being said, things could change. If he can’t pay for what he was supposed to and I have to step in, things with child support could change. It’s a discussion to have.

But what about if you do get child support and spousal support? These could be affected by a co-parent’s debts. This, again, is something you’ll want to talk to professionals about to find out exactly how you’re going to be impacted. I’m not sure if debts do impact things, but I do know that applying for “undue hardship” is a possibility in some areas.

If you get child support and rely on that, you could find yourself impacted financially because of the other parent’s bad decisions. You shouldn’t have to be. You’ve already been impacted in the separation—and if you’re like me, it wasn’t your choice for your spouse to be abusive and have affairs—so why should you be impacted further? It’s not fair. Your family law attorney or divorce lawyer should be able to assess your situation and provide the best legal advice that advocates for your and your kid’s interests.

What you agreed to in the separation

You’ll need to look at the financial decisions you agreed to during the separation agreement. What did you sign? If you signed to take on the co-parent’s debt, you will be financially impacted by that. Make sure you have a cap on the debt and make it clear what you are paying for if you agreed to any of this. I’d hate for an ex-spouse to run up extra credit card debt that you find yourself paying for. Having a divorce lawyer on your side will help ensure that your rights and interests are protected in every document that you sign.

If you did have joint debt, you will be liable. This is even if your ex-spouse agreed to pay off the debt. If the ex doesn’t do that, then the creditor will turn to you. It doesn’t matter what your separation agreement says at this point. The creditor is looking at who signed for the debt.

It may not be joint. You may have just been a guarantor. You are liable in this case, too. So you’ll need to check on all joint debts and what it means for you. Let me tell you now; I will never co-sign a loan for anyone. Not even my children!

MORE: Is a car loan a good idea for your credit score?

Are you struggling with a co-parent’s debt? Has it become your responsibility? Share your problems in the comments below and let’s solve them.

Get in touch to talk about a co-parent’s debt and your financial responsibilities in Ontario.

Alexandria Ingham is a professional writer. She predominately ghost-writes in various niches, including fitness, finance and technology Everything is fully researched and well-written. Under her own name, she writes in the technology, business, history and weight loss niches

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