Accumulating debt with a spouse can be complicated…at least when you end up getting divorced.
It’s not always clear who should pay what. And then there are all the expenses that pile up after you get divorced. Maybe your spouse has been making charges on your joint credit card to get back at you…or vice versa. Or perhaps money has just been really tight lately so you’ve both been relying on your credit cards to get by.
Before you know it, you’ve got a whole lot of joint credit card debt to deal with.
It would be much easier if you could just close all of your joint accounts and divide your credit card debt accordingly. But unfortunately, it doesn’t always work that way.
The problem is that many credit card companies won’t close your account unless the balance is $0. And even if you do manage to close your joint accounts, you and your ex-spouse will still be responsible for paying down the balance…together.
Who’s Responsible for What?
In community property states, like Arizona, California, Idaho, Louisiana, Nevada, New Mexico, Texas, Washington and Wisconsin, both parties are held responsible for credit card debt, even for charges made by the other partner. This is even the case if one spouse is just an “Additional Cardholder” on the account.
Then as soon as a couple becomes separated from one another (either living apart or legally separated), they each become responsible for their own debt.
In other (equitable distribution) states, each partner is responsible for whatever debt they’ve accrued in the past—and not their spouse’s debt.
In the eyes of creditors, on the other hand, you’re expected to pay any debt that’s under your name—no matter who your divorce decree declares responsible.
What to Do
First things first, see if you can close your joint credit accounts so that no more charges are made on the account. If it’s not possible to close the accounts, call your creditors to see if they will at least prohibit future charges on the account.
You could also try to transfer half of the balance (or however much the court deems that you are responsible for) to a different credit card (preferably the one with the lowest interest rate) that’s under only your name.
If that isn’t possible, be sure to keep records of all the charges that you make, in case you have to prove what you’re liable for in court later on.
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