Gambling Addiction and Divorce

Man drinking and plating poker, seems to be losing. Addiction is a problem that plagues our nation.  It comes in many forms, ranging from shopping addiction to opiate addiction.  Gambling addiction is one that can be frequently overlooked, as statistics show that almost eighty percent of Americans engage in some sort of gambling every year, whether that is a state lottery, fantasy football, or serious card games.  During a divorce, gambling addiction can have a serious impact on the proceedings.

Minnesota is an “equitable distribution” state.  This means that at a final divorce hearing, property will be divided equitably by the court.  Note that an equitable division does not always mean an equal division.  When making a division of assets or debts, Minnesota judges will review a list of factors set out in the Minnesota statute 518.58.  Judges assume that debts acquired during the marriage are marital debt and should be divided.  However, when the debt is from gambling debt, a spouse may have an argument that he or she should not be required to assume part of the debt.  If, for example, one spouse had no idea about any of the gambling debt, then he or she may have an argument that he or she should be responsible for any part of that debt.  Conversely, if the non-gambling spouse knew of the gambling, he or she may still end up responsible for a part of the debt.

Division of property will be more problematic where the gambling spouse used the innocent spouse’s name to accumulate debt.  While a divorce decree can state that one spouse is solely responsible for a particular debt, that decree does not change the relationship between the creditor and the debtor.  For example, a divorce court can state that the gambling spouse is responsible for the entire credit card debt that is in both spouses’ names.  However, if that spouse fails to make timely payments, the credit card company can still pursue both spouses to recover the debt.  This is an important illustration on why if you believe your spouse is addicted to gambling, it is important to file for divorce sooner rather than later.  Even if you were not involved in the gambling, you could still end up responsible for part of your spouse’s gambling debt.

We have extensive experience assisting our clients with all types of property division issues.  Contact us today at (651) 371-9117 to discuss your marital debt and what we can do to help you.