Study suggests marriage-related debt might drive MD couples to divorce

Couples with marriage-related debt may face a greater risk of divorce. This debt may also cause complicated property division issues during the separation.

Many couples in Rockville see no harm in spending extra money to secure the perfect engagement ring or enjoy an unforgettable wedding. Some couples are even willing to take on debt to make their visions a reality. Sadly, a new study suggests that these couples may face a higher risk of eventually divorcing. Furthermore, if these couples do separate, the presence of debt may significantly complicate the process, especially during property division.

Financial stresses and strife

CNN reports that two Emory University economics professors recently surveyed 3,151 adults. Each respondent was married or had been previously married at least once. The professors questioned the respondents about the costs of their engagement rings and wedding ceremonies. According to The Huffington Post, the professors reported the following findings:

  • Women whose weddings cost over $20,000 were 3.5 times likelier to divorce than women who spent between $5,000 and $10,000.
  • Women who kept wedding costs below $1,000 were as much as 93 percent less likely to report stress about wedding-related expenses.
  • Compared to men who spent between $500 and $2,000 on rings, those who spent over $2,000 were 1.3 times likelier to get divorced.
  • Women who received rings worth more than $2,000 were 3 times likelier to describe feelings of stress stemming from wedding-related debt.

The study didn't conclusively establish a reason for this correlation. Researchers speculated that the stress associated with excessive wedding-related debt might simply be too much for some couples to handle.

If the study findings are accurate, many couples in Maryland may be at risk for getting divorced. According to CNN, one survey of 13,000 brides and grooms found that they spent an average of $30,000 on their weddings. Unfortunately, people who do divorce with this kind of debt may also experience complications during divorce proceedings.

Debt division issues

During a divorce, Maryland law distinguishes between marital and separate property. Gifts, inheritances, property owned before the marriage, property the parties agree is not marital and any property traceable to those four sources all qualify as separate property. Other property obtained during the marriage is marital property, which is subject to equitable distribution.

Premarital debt is considered separate property. However, this debt may affect the final distribution of marital property. Among other things, a family law judge must consider a spouse's financial standing and existing obligations when considering distributing assets and property.

Commingling of assets may also be an issue in divorces that involve preexisting debt. Commingling occurs when marital and separate property become mixed. This mixing of assets may make reaching an appropriate division of property even more challenging.

Guidance during divorce

In light of these issues, spouses who are dealing with debt while preparing for divorce should consider seeking legal advice. A family law attorney may be able to assist a spouse in understanding his or her rights during property division. An attorney may also be able to help a spouse pursue a settlement that accounts for important factors such as separate and marital debt.

Keywords: divorce, property, division