Family Law Services

Debt & Divorce

Divorcing with existing debt? Brown Family Law understands the financial challenges that come with separation. We’ll work to create a clear and fair debt division plan, ensuring financial stability for you and your children as you move forward.

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Brown Family Law Lawyer Mediation

People Fight About Two Things in Divorce: Kids and Money.

Debt & Divorce

People fight over these things because their ultra-important. Nothing is more important than ensuring children are taken care of in a healthy, nurturing environment where they can grow up and be successful.

And to create such an environment, you need money. You need money for a good home, money for healthy food, money for education, and on. So, money and kids are intertwined. You can’t deal with one and not the other.

Debt and Divorce FAQs

Equitable Division of the Assets and Debts

Utah is an equitable division of the assets and debts state. Equitable means fair. Fair has been interpreted by the Utah courts to mean equal, unless there is a good reason it shouldn’t mean equal.

So, the general rule is all debts and assets will be split evenly between husband and wife.

For example, if a couple owns a home, sells it as part of the divorce, and pockets a total of $100,000 in equity (after paying realtor fees, etc.), they will each receive $50,000.

Likewise, if a couple has $20,000 in credit card debt, they generally will each have to pay $10,000. (For the most part, it doesn’t matter who actually bought purchased stuff with the card, just that it was bought when you were together during the marriage.)

Post-Separation Debts and Assets

So, what happens if people have been separated for a while and they incur debt or accumulate assets?

If someone incurs debt, that debt will usually be theirs 100%. The logic is you can’t separate from a spouse, run up massive debt on your stuff, then make your spouse pay for it. (A common exception to this is if the debt was incurred to maintain marital property, like the home, or to pay for children’s necessities.)

Now, if marital property increases in value after separation, both parties will usually share that increase equally. For example, if the marital home goes up in value after separation but before you sell it, everyone will get their equal share of that increase.

And what if you win the lottery or get a huge raise at work after you separate? Honestly, that will depend on a lot of factors, like the total time of separation. In fact, there are way too many factors to list here. If you have a situation like this, let’s talk about it.

It’s only natural to have a variety of questions as a woman going through the divorce process. While some are easier to answer than others, every one deserves your full attention.

Women, in particular, often worry about what the future will bring after the divorce is finalized. There are many reasons for this, including the fact that some women did not work while they were married. As a result, they know that their life is going to change in many ways.

Important moves to make

Preparing for divorce is easier said than done, but there are basic steps any woman can take to make herself feel better about the future.

  • Gather all the necessary financial records. From bank account statements to retirement account statements, don’t leave any stone unturned.
  • Save for the future. Even if it’s only a little bit of money, it will come in handy as you move through the divorce process. You can use the cash for legal fees, starting your new life, and giving yourself some “padding” if you happen to run into a difficult month.
  • Get a copy of your credit report. This will give you a clear idea of where things stand with regard to your credit, including areas of concern that require your immediate attention.
  • Make important changes. Do you need to alter your estate plan? Do you need to name a new beneficiary on your life insurance policy? These types of important changes need to be made right away, as any delay could have a far-reaching impact in the future.

With so much going on, it can be a challenge to focus your time and energy on these financial moves. Even so, you need to make sure that all of these points are high on your priority list.

When you take the right steps to financially prepare for divorce, when you understand your legal rights, and when you have the right people on your side, it’s much easier to get down to business and put your divorce in the past. From there, you can look forward to a future in which you are able to live a better life.

Almost everyone who goes through divorce in Utah has debt.

When we meet with people and start walking with them through their divorce, there are a lot of questions about money. This makes sense because people are scared about their futures, and money and debt is a big unknown when looking in to the future while going through divorce.

One of the most common questions we are asked is: “What counts as debt?”

The answer is simple: anything you have, or services you’ve received in the past, that you owe money on is debt.

Now, just because you make monthly payments on things doesn’t mean those are debts that need to be divided during divorce. Here are a few examples of what I mean:

  1. Utilities: You make monthly payments on utilities, but you don’t own utilities, so they’re not debt that we would split in divorce. Utilities are part of your monthly household budget, but they aren’t marital debts.
  2. Daycare: You pay your daycare provider every month, but those are, almost always, for the next month’s services, so they aren’t marital debt. (Note: if you owe six months of back daycare expenses, that would be marital debt we would need to divide.)
  3. Health insurance: you pay monthly health insurance premiums, and that’s an ongoing expense that’s part of the household budget, not a debt for past services.

Now, let’s contrast this with examples of things that are debt which would be discussed and negotiated during divorce:

  1. Medical bills: While monthly insurance premiums aren’t debt, medical bills certainly are. You’ve received services and you owe, so it’s a debt. Medical debts are almost universally marital (as opposed to personal) debt.
  2. Homes with unpaid mortgages: Most people think of homes as assets. In divorce, that’s only true if the house is paid off. If you are still making payments on the mortgage, then the home is a debt. It’s only after you sell it and make money on the sale, that it’s positive equity becomes an asset.
  3. 401(k) loans: Usually, a 401(k) is an asset that we would divide in divorce. Often, though, people take out loans on their 401(k)s for whatever reason. If that’s the situation, then the 401(k) principle would be an asset, but it would be offset by the loan, which is a marital debt that needs to be divided. So, if you have $50,000 in a 401(k), and you have a $15,000 loan on it, then there’s $35,000 in assets and $15,000 in debt on the 401(k).


How debt is divided in divorce depends on your particular financial situation. That said, you know something is debt that will need to be divided in divorce if it’s anything you have, or services you’ve received in the past, that you owe money.

Utah is what’s called an “equitable division of the debts” state. Equitable means fair, and Utah courts have interpreted fair to mean 50/50, unless there are circumstances that necessitate something different.

One of the most common debts couples have to divide in divorce is medical bills. Medical insurance is expensive, and medical bills, even if you have insurance, can break the bank. Because this type of debt is so common, we often have people ask us something like this: is medical debt incurred for one spouse a marital debt that will be split in divorce?

To answer this question, we first have to see what Utah law says about marital debt. Utah Code, Section 30-2-9 reads:

(1) The expenses of the family and the education of the children are chargeable upon the property of both spouses or of either of them separately, for which expenses they may be sued jointly or separately.

. . . .

(4) For the purposes of this section, family expenses are considered expenses incurred that benefit and promote the family unit. Items purchased pursuant to a written contract or agreement during the marriage that do not relate to family expenses are not covered by this section.

So, family expenses are joint (i.e., 50/50) expenses, and family expenses are those incurred to “benefit and promote the family unit.” It’s hard to imagine how most medical treatment wouldn’t fall under benefitting and promoting the family.

The Utah Supreme Court has talked about this very question, and has said: “It is well established that the costs of . . . medical services . . . are family expenses for which both spouses are liable.” Outsource Receivables Mgmt. v. Bishop, 2015 UT App 41, ¶ 4, 344 P.3d 1167, (quoting N.A.R., Inc. v. Elmer, 2006 UT App 293, ¶ 4 n.2, 141 P.3d 606).

So, yes, without much doubt, medical expenses are marital debt. Now, in the law there are exceptions to every rule, and here it is no different.

Think about a situation in which a spouse has an affair, contracts an S.T.D., and needs medical treatment. That cheated-on spouse will almost certainly not be on the hook for the cheater’s treatment.

So, while there are some limited exceptions, the rule is medical treatment will be divided evenly between people getting divorced in Utah.

People fight about two things in divorce: kids and money.

Dividing assets and debts is usually a pretty straightforward process. (You can read about the basics here and here.) So, you usually don’t fight about that a ton.

Child support is also pretty straightforward and unobjectionable. I mean, honestly, who fights against paying to help their kids? (You can read more about how child support is calculated here and here.)

Same goes for child-care costs and sharing insurance and out-of-pocket medical expenses for your kids. They just aren’t that controversial, so people tend not to fight about them much.

And then there’s alimony. This is where it can get contentious. No one likes to pay alimony. Men don’t like to pay it because they feel like they’re paying their ex-wife to be their ex-wife. And, if men don’t like to pay alimony, women like to pay it even less. (Women paying men alimony is pretty rare, by the way.)

The reality is, though, that alimony is a regular part of divorce. What I mean is it’s pretty common that one party pays another party alimony for a while. (For a primer on alimony calculations, read here.)

Alimony and Mortgages

Because alimony is a regular part of divorce, and because people usually buy homes after divorce (you should wait a little while before buying a home), we get asked pretty often if and how alimony affects buying a home.

There are two angles to this question.

First angle is from the point of view of the person paying alimony.

If you pay alimony, you almost always pay it every month for a period of time (e.g., every month for five years). This means you have a monthly debt obligation that must be paid before paying a mortgage. This increases your debt load when you apply for a mortgage, which means you’ll qualify for a lower loan amount or a higher interest rate.

You can still qualify for a mortgage if you pay alimony, but it will be at a decreased amount or higher cost.

Second angle is from the point of view of the person receiving alimony.

If you receive alimony, that monthly amount will be counted as income when you go apply for a mortgage loan. (It’s also considered income for tax purposes.) This means your alimony will help you qualify for a higher loan amount or lower interest rate.

Ultimately, how alimony affects particular mortgage loan amounts and interest rates is dependent on the company you choose to finance your mortgage. Shop around.

People fight about two things in divorce: kids and money.

Child support is the intersection of those two things. So, as you would expect, there are some fights about child support in many Utah divorces.

Sometimes, to lessen the fight, people will try to agree to waive (i.e., not collect) child support.

But, can you actually do this? Can you just waive child support?

The answer is a pretty resounding “no.” The reason for this is child support doesn’t belong to you or your spouse. Child support belongs to your kid(s), so you can’t bargain it away.

Judges guard child support very jealously. This means if you try to agree in divorce papers to not collect child support, your judge will not accept the agreement and will not finalize your divorce.

(I know this because I tried it a few times. Every time, the judges would send back the agreements and tell me to rework the agreement to include child support.)

What all this means is you have to include child support in a Utah divorce agreement. There’s simply no way around that.

Possible Solution

Now, a possible solution is this: you could have a gentlemen’s agreement that, even though child support is in the divorce decree, that the person owed child support will not collect it.

You really need a lot of trust in a situation like this because the person owed child support can turn around at any moment and go collect all the child support you haven’t paid. If you don’t have complete confidence you both will abide by the gentlemen’s agreement, don’ do it.

Honestly, this is the best solution I’ve found to address this problem. It’s far from perfect, but it’s really the best you got.

There are a few constants in life: death; taxes; and, upon reaching adulthood, being told a home is your single greatest investment.

And for most people that’s true. It’s where, unfortunately in my opinion, we keep most of our wealth. (Don’t get me wrong, home equity is great, but it should be only one part of a person’s overall wealth, not the majority of it.)

But what about divorce? Is a marital home as asset (i.e., a positive) in divorce, or a debt (i.e., a negative)?

The answers to these questions depends on the home. In fact, there are three primary answers to these questions:

  1. If your home is paid off, it is anasset. This is because you don’t owe anything, so the entire value of the home is yours.
  2. If you still owe on your home and don’t have any equity, your home is adebt. In other words, if you’re upside down, you’re in in deep.
  3. If you still owe on your home and have positive equity, your home isa debt and an asset. Since you owe on your home, it’s be definition a debt. However, since you have positive equity in the home, and you would make money if you were to sell it, your home is also an asset.

As an example, say you owe $100,000 on your home. You could sell the home for $200,000. So, it’s a $100,000 debt that needs to be addressed in divorce, but it’s also a $100,000 (less costs and fees associated with selling the home) asset that needs to be divided in divorce.

What’s Normal in Divorce

Usually, people who own homes haven’t paid them off (on average, people live in a home for seven years before buying a new home), but they have positive equity. So, most people going through divorce have to deal with their home as an asset and as a debt.

P.S.: This post was meant to be a simple explanation about how to think about a home in divorce. For more on how we usually deal with homes in divorce, read here.

When you divorce, you almost always split medical costs. (For more on how this works, read here.)

That seems pretty easy, right? Usually, yes, but, as with everything in divorce, there are complications. And for whatever reason, braces are one of those complications.

I can’t tell you how many times we’ve had a client call us and say, “My son/daughter needs braces, but [enter soon-to-be ex’s/ex’s name here] said he won’t pay for it.” The reason is almost always that braces aren’t necessary. (This, of course, makes no sense. No one gets kids $4000 braces for non-essential reasons.)

Here’s how we tell our clients to deal with this situation (it’s worked every time we’ve had to go to court, so it has a pretty good track record):

Go to your orthodontist and get a letter stating the braces are medically necessary. Every orthodontist on earth will give you that letter, so it shouldn’t be a difficult task.

Once you get the letter, give it to your soon-to-be-ex/ex. They almost always start paying their half at this point.

Sometimes, a parent will say orthodontia is not a medical expense and refuse to pay. This kind of makes sense, but every time we’ve encountered it in court, judges and commissioners reject it.

Last Piece of Advice

If you know you’re going to get resistance on the braces, go get the letter right up front. That should help minimize conflict.

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Check out what some of our real life clients had to say about working with Brown Family Law

Brown Family Law
Based on 806 reviews
I would hands down suggest Brown Family Law. Nathaniel helped me with my divorce, and he was very knowlegeable and knows his stuff. He helped me file a motion, get somethings changed in the original decree, helped me understand the terms they use, helped me understand how child support is calculated along is all the financial aspects associated with divorce case. He also is very responsive to phone calls and emails which was very helpful whenever I had small questions. Thank you Nathaniel!
Response from the owner: Andrew, thank you for your kind words.
I can’t say enough good things about Brown Family Law, but more specifically, my lawyer David Handy and his paralegal Dani. They are kind and honest and always available to me when I’ve needed them! This is such an exhausting time and they alleviated all of my stress by taking control. I could trust the process knowing I was in great hands!!! The entire law firm works as a team to take care of you! I can’t recommend them enough! Thank you!!!
Response from the owner: Ryan, so glad David and Dani served you so well and alleviated your stress.
They handled my case with the highest degree of professionalism and integrity and made every effort to be efficient and transparent with me throughout the whole process. I was told that they were the best as far as family law is concerned and I believe that praise was fully justified.
Response from the owner: Ben, thank you.
Amber McFee is always professional and great to work with. Being opposing counsel by nature is adversarial, but Amber is professional in approach while effectively advocating for her clients. She will treat you right!
Response from the owner: Thank you, Jonathan.
Overall from start to finish the best experience to have dealing with a time that is difficult.Andrew Christensen is very professional and out going to make this situation the best it could be and worked hard to make sure the divorce was fair for me.Over all, this firm really cares and treats you as a family or friend and just not a client, down to Marco Brown taking time to see how I was doing and offer to help in any way possible during my divorce while I was there for my first initial meeting.I would highly recommend anyone that has to go through a divorce to really reach out to the Brown Family Law firm and see for your self the experience I was able to receive from a top notch law firm.
Response from the owner: Devin, thank you for the kind words. Andrew appreciated the opportunity to help you with your situation.
Sophie was very helpful and explains the process and fees. Thank you!
Response from the owner: Corey, thank you for the kind words. Glad we could help.
Dani always kept me updated and has great communication skills.
Response from the owner: Thank you, Sofia.
Dani was extremely helpful and always responsive.
Response from the owner: Glad Dani did well for you.
My experience with Brown Family Law is a positive one. I highly recommend them. This firm has very good communication with their clients. Attorney Paul Waldron represents me and I’m very happy with the experience. My questions and concerns are always answered quickly and respectfully. I’m grateful to have Mr. Waldron and Brown Family Law in my corner during this difficult time for my family.
Response from the owner: Jodie, glad we were able to communicate with you so effectively and quickly. Thank you for your kind words.
I recently used Clay in a divorce case and could not have been happier. He was efficient, knowledgeable, and made me feel like I was his only client. The process was easy and he was always there to reassure me or help me with decisions. I would highly recommend Brown Family Law.
Response from the owner: Thank you, Mendi.
Dani excelled as a paralegal, providing crucial support with exceptional skills!
Response from the owner: Glad Dani did such a good job for you.
Thank you So much
Response from the owner: You're welcome. Thank you for choosing us to help you.
I highly recommend Nathaniel and his team. They listened to me, navigated me, educated me, and always called when they said they would. Going through a divorce was very hard but they helped me get through it and showed compassion the whole time.
Response from the owner: Amy, thank you for your recommendation, and glad we could help you through your divorce.
They were helpful with clarifying some issues regarding my divorce decree while navigating the modification to another state
Response from the owner: Glad we could help.
I consulted with Nathaniel regarding a legal issue from Utah that had implications in another state. He was very quick to respond. I found him to be extremely knowledgeable and helpful regarding the issues. Would highly recommend him for anyone looking for a Utah based attorney.
Response from the owner: Thank you, Trey.
Anne-Greyson and Melanie were FANTASTIC to work with. They went above and beyond what I needed and kept in constant contact. I am incredibly grateful for their help and support in handling my case. Professional, kind, detail oriented - I cannot say enough good. Thank you so much!
Response from the owner: Jennifer, so glad Anne-Greyson and Melanie were able to help you.
The team at Brown Family Law is highly skilled and very supportive. The intake process was very personalized and validating and the welcoming receptionist was exceptionally friendly and helpful in setting up my account and processing my retainer and payments. Dani provided consistent and frequent communication and kept in touch with me from beginning to end. Paul is very wise in his decision-making and extremely personalized in navigating complex and sensitive post divorce needs and decree modifications to protect myself and my children.
Response from the owner: Jason, thank you so much for your kind review. Glad Paul was able to help you.
My lawyer Amy Pomeroy, paralegals Dani Blandon, Kody Harvey, Melanie Cramer, and their team were great to work with during a very difficult time. Their expertise and professionalism was very highly appreciated. Their communication was excellent and I was kept in the loop throughout the whole process. Highly recommended if you need legal representation during a divorce.
Response from the owner: David, thank you for your kind words. So glad we could help.
I had taken my boyfriend to brown law to handle what should have been an easy case for them. Everything took a turn and it became a very messy situation with the other parent. Andrew Christensen represented him and we were able to get everything settled amongst the parents (my boyfriend and his ex) to something they both were happy with, without having to go to trial or incurring any additional fees. Brown law is one of the best law firms I know of because of their lawyers (Andrew and Clay). They also sent us beautiful flowers to our house for the arrival of our new baby. I wouldn't recommend any other law firm to represent you in your hard times.
Response from the owner: Thank you, Alexis. Glad Andrew could help you.
Very helpful and informative, easy to talk with. They gave me more information than any law office ive called in the last month!
Response from the owner: Sam, thank you for your kind words. Glad we could help.
Dani is approachable and knows a lot. Anyone would be lucky to have her as their paralegal.
Response from the owner: Jessica, thank you for the kind words about Dani.
If you decide to hire Brown Family Law for your divorce, ask for Dani to be your paralegal. She is super helpful and is super fast at responding. 10/10
Response from the owner: Aubrey, so glad you had a good experience with Dani.
Would definitely reccomend Dani as your paralegal!!! She's amazing!!!!!!
Response from the owner: Thank you.
Kim Washburn is amazing!
Response from the owner: Karick, thank you for your recommendation.
Kent wasn’t able to help me with my case, but he gave me great advice. Wonderful man, restored my faith in good people.
Response from the owner: Landon, thank you.
After my daughter-in-law took my Son daughter’s… fled state and hid under the people of the Mormon church… this incredible team brought justice to our horrible story and has given my Son the opportunity he needed to heal a broken family.Believe it or not he has custody of their two beautiful daughters thanks to Nathan, Carren and their team! and he is breaking his back to make sure their happy and having a relationship with both parents (the very people who spent a ton of money trying to end his relationship with the girls) is in tact.Nathan was God sent and kept his composure during the most unbelievable amount of lies and bull poop from the other side.Nathan is the reason I believe that dreams come true.If your Son is fight to have a fair relationship with his children, you have come to the right place!
Response from the owner: So glad Nathaniel and Carren were able to help.
Amy Pomeroy is an excellent attorney, I recommend her and her staff to anyone. She helped me through a very hard times she very smart and kind .
Response from the owner: Thank you.
Very helpful, and answered all of our questions!
Response from the owner: So glad we could help, Casey.
I was at west jordan court today and Amber was amazing I will contact her once again.excellent work brown law
Response from the owner: Thank you, so glad Amber was able to help you.
Dani was an outstanding Paralegal! Would absolutely recommend her 100%.
Response from the owner: Glad Dani could help.
Dani is amazing. So personal and easy to work with. She is bright and very knowledgeable. I appreciate her willingness and friendly service!
Response from the owner: Travis, thank you.
Ray Hingson is an excellent attorney. I highly recommend him and his staff to anyone. He helped my daughter through a difficult child custody case. He is smart, articulate and kind.
Response from the owner: Camille, thank you.
very helpful and informed me of alot.
Response from the owner: Good to hear.
Attorney Jason Crawford was nothing short of amazing. His attention to detail and experience helped my case immensely. Highly recommended!
Response from the owner: Becca, thank you, and we're so glad Jason helped you well.
Went above and beyond to get me answers I was seeking thanks and I appreciate all your help Sunshine
Response from the owner: Julie, thank you.
I really lived working with Anne-Greyson. I felt like she really listened and had my best interest at heart. She was very quick to return phone calls and emails, I never felt like I was a bother! I would absolutely recommend this law firm and her to anyone.
Response from the owner: Renee, Anne-Grayson was luck to have worked with you. Thank you.
My attorney Jason Crawford with Brown Family law firm was awesome. I got joint legal and physical custody of my children. He negotiated for my best interest and I was able to keep our home and existing mortgage too.
Response from the owner: Matthew, thank you and glad Jason helped you so well.
I highly recommend Brown Family Law Office i had phone call consultation and they provided answers for all my questions and even give recommendation and referrals that I was needed.
Response from the owner: Anna, glad we were able to point you in the right direction.
Nathaniel was absolutely wonderful to work with. He was careful to help explain proceedings to me. He was very attentive to any questions or concerns I had while going through the divorce process. I would definitely recommend Nathaniel to anyone who is going through the divorce process.
Response from the owner: Deb, so glad Nathaniel was able to help you.
Ray is a great attorney to work with, he will do everything in his power to get what your asking for.
Response from the owner: Sandra, thank you for your kind words.
Rebekah Hatch was very helpful and knowledgable on family law and went above and beyond for my family. Would recommend her to anyone. She understands and is compassionate in what she does. Thank you Brown Family Law!
Response from the owner: Karamea, Rebekah was happy to help you.
Nathaniel Garrabrandt is an excellent lawyer.He helped me with my family law case, and gave my hope in the system again.
Response from the owner: Drew, thank you for the recommendation.
I had the pleasure of speaking with Sunshine at Brown Family Law today. Her dedication to answering my questions and giving me the information I needed was outstanding. If you need help with divorce or custody, give them a call. Excellent service!
Response from the owner: Breanne, so glad Sunshine was able to help you.

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What Makes Us Different

At Welty Law Office, we know that when we make children’s well-being a priority, their parents do better, too.
At Welty Law Office, we know that when we make children’s well-being a priority, their parents do better, too.
At Welty Law Office, we know that when we make children’s well-being a priority, their parents do better, too.
At Welty Law Office, we know that when we make children’s well-being a priority, their parents do better, too.