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Who Pays the Bills Before the Divorce Gets Finalized?


The divorce process is a difficult and emotionally fraught time. It’s not only mentally draining, but it also places a drain on finances when one household separates into two while income remains the same. Add the costs of two attorneys, and the financial situation may become difficult to navigate. Whether you are the spouse who moved out or the one who’s remained in the family home, you might be wondering who pays the bills before the final divorce judgment maps out a plan for who pays what, and which household bills and debts you should pay before the divorce becomes final?

Temporary Orders During Colorado Divorce

Just as no two marriages are the same, not two divorces are the same in Colorado or elsewhere. For some spouses, one spouse pays all of the household bills and expenses during the marriage, particularly if the spouse is the higher wage earner or the other spouse stays home to care for the children and the household. In other households, both spouses pay bills from a joint account with their combined incomes. Some married couples divide the bills into several paid from one spouse’s income and others paid by the second spouse. 

The way divorcing spouses handle their monthly bills for household expenses during the divorce process may be left up to them to decide, but what if one spouse becomes contentious and ceases contributing to household expenses they normally cover? For many divorcing couples, the answer is a temporary order filed at the same time as their divorce petition. Temporary orders in a Colorado divorce can require one spouse to keep paying their usual share of household expenses or to pay an appropriate amount of spousal support to the other spouse temporarily to cover essential household bills such as:

  • Mortgage or rent
  • Utilities
  • Car payments
  • Health insurance
  • Groceries

In most cases, a judge decides on maintaining the “status quo” of the marriage and the temporary orders reflect this status quo by compelling each spouse to continue paying the bills the way did before their separation and divorce filing. This order lasts until after the final judgment and equal distribution of assets, child support, and spousal support orders.

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What About Credit Card and Loan Debts?

Just as Colorado divorce law requires the equitable distribution of marital assets such as real estate property, vehicles, retirement accounts, investment accounts, electronics, artwork, and household furnishings, it also requires the equitable—or fair—distribution of marital debt, either through negotiating a settlement out of court with the help of a divorce attorney and mediation, or through a judge’s orders. Once this divorce agreement or order becomes final, each spouse must pay their fair share of the debts, including credit card debt and personal loan accounts. If one spouse earns substantially more than the other, the judge may order spousal support payments from the higher-earner to the lower so the lower-earning spouse can continue to pay household expenses until such time as they become self-sufficient.

The Automatic Temporary Injunction

As soon as one spouse files a petition for divorce in Colorado, an automatic temporary injunction comes into place for both spouses. This order prohibits both parties in the divorce from hiding or disposing of assets and requires them to fully disclose all income and other financial information to the court and the other spouse during the divorce process. These orders also allow for both parties to continue spending money for the necessities of life and reasonable daily expenditures, including their household bills in the “usual course of business.”

If a spouse tries to block the other party’s access to marital funds during the divorce, they should contact their attorney for immediate help.

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