DebtWave Credit Counseling, a nonprofit credit counseling agency in San Diego, answers:
Many people are unsure of how to handle outstanding credit-card debt after a divorce. Going through a divorce can be messy, but there are neat guidelines that tell you which credit-card debts you are responsible for, which should be handled by your former spouse, and which debts you must share even after you’re separated. Credit-card companies are in business to make money, so they need to make sure that someone pays outstanding balances on their credit cards.
If you and your former spouse have credit-card debt, the financial burden usually lies with the person who opened the specific credit-card account. While most couples open accounts separately, many open joint accounts. The rules for joint accounts vary by state, but marital debt usually includes any debt incurred during the marriage regardless of whose name appears on the title. You’ll be at least partially responsible for whatever joint credit-card debt you built up while married.
If you can close a joint account at the time of your separation, you should do so to prevent your ex-spouse from racking up more debt in your name. Once you’ve separated, consider keeping all of your non-marital debt independent of the debts you accumulated while you were married. Think about opening up a new credit card after you’ve separated and refrain from using any credit card still carrying marital debt.
Be sure to pay all of your credit cards off or at least make the minimum payments. Otherwise, not only will you have to suffer the hardship of divorce, but your credit score and history also will plummet.
The firm can be reached at 888-855-5185 and thru their website www.debtwave.org.