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Lucy, Esq.
Lucy, Esq., Lawyer
Category: Family Law
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Experience:  Attorney with experience in family law.
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My divorce was final last December. Our marital home is being

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My divorce was final last December. Our marital home is being foreclosed on (she is still residing there part time), and there is PMI on the 1st mortgage; however, there is a second mortgage for approximately 10k. I received a notification from a debt collector that they would be willing to settle the debt for 5k. My ex-wife is not cooperating about sharing the debt. There are no terms in our divorce regarding either mortgage or the home. Can I sue her for 1/2 of the settlement amount 2.5k?

My name is XXXXX XXXXX I'd be happy to answer your questions today.

You unfortunately cannot hold your ex-wife automatically liable on a settlement that you agreed to without her consent. There are, however, a few other options. One is to go back to the divorce court and file a Motion for Clarification, asking the judge to address who is responsible for that debt or alternatively asking him to order her to pay half of the money owed on the second mortgage. If the property was acquired during the marriage, this is a marital debt and is something that should have been addressed during the divorce. If you tried to file in Small Claims Court, the judge might dismiss the case for lack of jurisdiction and refer you back to the family law judge.

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Customer: replied 3 years ago.

So because I accepted the settlement already, I have no recourse? Or can I still go back to family law court and ask for redress of the debt that I have paid?

You can still go back to the family law court and ask the judge to state who is responsible for that debt and to order her to give you half, based on the fact that it's a marital debt and should have been divided equally between you. If you tried to bring a suit in a different court, you likely wouldn't be successful.
Customer: replied 3 years ago.

Last follow up, given that I am a much higher earner than she is would that fact be considered in family court when deciding if she owed anything on the debt? Also, would she be able to contest and request more alimony if I went back to court to settle just this debt in family court or would she have to reopen the case under that particular request...Finally, what would you estimate my chances of getting half that money back based on what I've said so far? Likely, somewhat likely, don't bother...


Thanks for your time.

Washington is a community property state. In a community property state, each spouse is entitled to roughly half the marital assets - and responsible for roughly half the marital debts. Income shouldn't come into play, although the judge can consider what amount of marital debt she has inherited when determining alimony initially.

She would have to request a modification to alimony. In order to get it, she would have to show a material change in circumstances. That's a separate request - the judge wouldn't automatically change her alimony just because you asked him about a debt that wasn't addressed during the divorce.

As far as the chances of getting the money back, that really depends on her. Does she actually have any money to pay you with? Would she give it to you or would she make you go back to court a third time to get it? Would she allow you to deduct it from the alimony (in writing), or would she try to have you held in contempt if you wanted to do that? Do you owe her money that it could be deducted from, like a property settlement that isn't transferred yet? Is she going to drag it out for months and make you miserable trying to collect? And if so, is your time and energy worth more than what you're asking her to pay? Those are all personal decisions, but they are important considerations.
Customer: replied 3 years ago.

Okay I guess, one more question. I should have probably put that my divorce occurred in does that change the situation if at all?

Oregon isn't a community property state, so it's a little different. Oregon is an equitable distribution state. The judge will divide assets and debts in a manner believe to be fair, but not necessarily equal. He's supposed to start with a 50/50 presumption. One thing that could help estimate what he might do is to look at how he divided other debts - did he split them down the middle or did he give one of you a bigger percentage? How did he split the assets? That might give you an idea of whether he's likely to assign her half the debt.
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