“Holding Harmless” on Marital Debts

It is not necessary for you to prove actual damages for your spouse to be held in contempt or for damages. If you have a divorce decree you likely have language requiring one spouse to hold harmless the other from a debt obligation. This often comes up when fighting over the house. Whichever, spouse gets the house will likely be held responsible for the mortgage and be required to refinance the house within a period of time or sell it.

The court will give the spouse who got the house a period to time to sell or refinance because the part will likely need to have time to get a job so that he or she can be pre-approved for a new mortgage. However, despite a new job it is likely that the spouse will never be able to be approved to refinance the house. In these situations, the spouse will simply do neither and reside in the home until forced to sell it.

Regretfully, the party responsible for the debt will just go into default. In these situations, there is often times where it will be difficult for your attorney to prove what we call “actual” damages, so a court may not hold the defaulting spouse in contempt. Your attorney must be aware of the case law not requiring “actual” damages for contempt proceedings. The only type of damages required in these situations is “harm,” which could include a damaged credit score. If you obtained a loan at a higher interest rate because of the hit on your credit report, you can hold the defaulting spouse liable for that cost, which could not be bankrupted (most likely).

Matt Wadsworth is a partner at Arnold, Wadsworth & Coggins Attorneys. He has extensive background in general civil litigation in both state and federal court. He has performed hundreds of bankruptcies and has over 20 active domestic cases.

Written by Arnold Wadsworth Coggins

Arnold, Wadsworth & Coggins Attorneys is a premier Utah law firm serving the Wasatch Front in the areas of family law, bankruptcy, criminal law, and civil litigation. Our attorneys provide clients with exceptional legal representation and personal attention. With over 35 years of trial practice and litigation experience, we bring big firm expertise at affordable rates