For any debts acquired during a marriage, both parties are often responsible, even after a divorce. Although the divorce court may order one spouse to pay off a joint debt, a divorce court cannot relieve one spouse from debts jointly incurred during the marriage. Consequently, a creditor may still try to collect the debt from the other spouse because the terms of the loan or other contract are unaffected by those of the divorce. Additionally, if a spouse ordered by a divorce court to pay a joint debt fails to do so, any penalties (damage to credit rating, garnishments, liens, etc.) will apply to both parties.

A divorce court may also order one party to pay off the other party's personal debts, particularly if these debts were incurred solely because of the marriage relationship. However, without specific language in the divorce decree imposing penalties on the first party for not paying the debt as ordered, any penalties for not paying the debt still fall upon the spouse who incurred the debt.