Finances During Separation

I am not sure about the first question you asked, especially with her salary being higher than yours. Since the home was purchased prior to the marriage and the marriage was so short, I’m not sure that she would have a “claim” to the home. Since she does earn more than you, it’s possible you could request post separation support…but I will leave that for an attorney.
The second question is if you WANT to help her out by furnishing her place you can. You are not obligated to help and I suggest you make sure that there is a separation agreement in place prior to her setting up credit for furniture and/or appliances. You still have the date of separation but in your current situation, I wouldn’t take any more chances with the credit. You said you are living in a pretty much empty house, does that mean that she took most of what you two had as far as furniture? Since you paid the security deposit, what else is she expecting that you pay for?

The last question…you are not responsible for any debt prior to marriage. You are responsible for half of any debt accrued during marriage regardless of your knowledge of them. Unless you either have the debts specified in a separation agreement that she is solely responsible…or you have the court decided that this could be considered separate debt due to the length of the marriage. You are not responsible for any debt after the date of separation unless you are increasing marital debt. If she has increased debt since the date of separation, that would be considered separate debt and would be her responsibility.
I suggest getting together all the information, and consulting an attorney for the separation agreement.

  1. The only interest she would have in the house would be the reduction of the principle balance of the mortgage and any increase in value caused by your active efforts (for example new flooring).

  2. Given the facts you stated it does not appear you would owe her an obligation of support and therefore would not need to contribute to her expenses. I would consult with an attorney on this issue before making a final decision.

  3. You are not liable for the debt she accumulated prior to marriage. If the debt she accumulated during the marriage was for marital purposes, it is marital debt, even if your name is not on the card, and would be shared evenly between you in equitable distribution. You are not liable for the debt she incurs after separation.

Helena M. Nevicosi
Attorney with Rosen Law Firm

4101 Lake Boone Trail, Suite 500
Raleigh, North Carolina 27607
919.787.6668 main phone
919.787.6361 main fax

Charlotte Office
301 McCullough Drive
Suite 510
Charlotte, NC 28262
Main Phone: (704)307.4600
Main Fax: (704) 9343.0044

Durham & Chapel Hill Office
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Chapel Hill, NC 27514
(919) 321.0780


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Good morning,

My wife and I separated a few months ago and she has now moved out of the home into an apartment. As we were not married and living together for even a full year, we did not have a tremendous amount of “stuff” that we had accumulated during the marriage and the distribution of physical property was relatively simply (knock on wood).

I have three questions that I hope one of the attorneys can help with before/while I pursue a formal separation agreement:

  1. We did not share/combine our finances after we got married and pretty much worked it out so that I would pay the mortgage and all repairs on the house (I bought the house prior to the marriage and have remained the sole owner on the deed) and she would pay the bills and most groceries…all in all, she paid a little over half of what I paid every month. She earns around 10% more than me (50k vs 45k), but has a number of debts that precede our marriage that eat into her monthly income so we decided that if this arrangement would help her pay off some high interest CC debts more rapidly. Given this situation what (if anything) should I realistically expect in terms of her claims against what I perceive as “my property” (i.e. the house).

2)Now that she has moved out and into a new apartment she has indicated that she would like for me to pay part (half) of the expenses related to setting up her new place. Although I want to be a decent guy about this the fact of the matter is that I am living in a pretty empty house myself and don’t feel like it should be my responsibility to help her furnish a new place just because things between us did not work out. I paid her security deposit on her new place already and do not want to continue setting a precedent for supporting her when frankly she out earns me and I am in a similar financial situation.

  1. This one may be a bit more tricky. As I mentioned above my wife had a substantial amount of debt when we were married (accrued prior to us meeting). We have never had joint accounts (no bank accounts, dual-signer auto loans or CC loans) but I do believe that she has continued to increase her overall level of debt on existing and perhaps new credit lines since we became married. So, three questions come to mind: a) am I at all liable for the debt that she incurred prior to our marriage b) am I liable for the debt that she accrued without my knowledge during the marriage (again, I have never been a cosigner) and c) if the answer to B is “yes” what are my continuing liabilities during the separation but prior to the divorce.

Thanks for any help you can provide.