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What You Should Know About Credit Card Debt and Divorce

On Behalf of | Jun 7, 2019 | Family Law

As the reality of your divorce settles in, you may find yourself overwhelmed by how many decisions you’ll have to make throughout the process. Separating your life from your partner can be complicated, especially as you attempt to forge a new future for yourself. Sorting through the financial aspects of your marriage, from bank account balances to retirement plans, can be particularly tricky. For example, what happens when you are going through a divorce, but you still have credit card debt that needs to be paid? Which one of you will have to pay it? While your divorce attorney can answer your specific questions about the division of debt during your divorce, it can be helpful to have a general understanding of how credit card debt is typically handled in situations like yours.

Washington is a Community Property State

Many states, such as Washington, California, Nevada, and several others, are referred to as “community property states.” This means that any debt that you or your ex racked up over the course of your marriage is still your shared responsibility. So, any credit card debt you have on accounts in your name, even if your spouse shared access to the account and was responsible for amassing the debt, still fall to you. If you do not pay the debt, creditors can come after you, even for debt incurred from joint purchases. Also, it’s important to note that the division of debt in your divorce may look different, as it often depends on what the judge’s decision.

Read the Fine Print

In some cases, a judge may order your ex to pay off debt owed to a credit card that is in your name. However, this does not mean you can simply walk away from the situation. The card is still in your name, meaning you are ultimately liable for any outstanding balances, according to your credit card company. So, if your ex refuses to obey the judge’s decree and fails to pay the debt, creditors can still come after you.

Getting Ahead of Potential Issues

Fortunately, there are strategies you can use to preserve your credit during your divorce. Whenever possible, negotiate with your ex so that you can both find a fair way to exit your marriage that makes sense financially for both of you. As soon as you know divorce is on the horizon, open your own credit card in your name only so that you can start building and protecting your individual credit score. If you and your ex are on difficult terms, close any joint accounts as soon as you can to prevent a vindictive spending spree.

For more information about how a divorce will affect your finances, call Stanley A. Kempner Jr. Attorney at Law today at (509) 309-8126 to arrange a consultation with a knowledgeable divorce and family law attorney.