When divorce is present, it is crucial to understand what happens to the liability for credit card debt in divorcing situations. In a divorce, the extent of a party’s liability for credit card debt depends on:
- Whether they live in common law or community property state.
- Whether the debt is for a joint credit card and who the debt is assigned in the divorce.
- Who the debt is assigned to in the divorce.
Credit Card Liability in Common Law States
The majority of states follow the common law rules when dividing property and debt in a divorce. These are referred to as common law states or equitable distribution states. In a common-law state, you are generally liable for all debts in your name. This means that if you took out a credit card in your name or cosigned on it, the creditor can come after you to collect the debt. As a result, after divorce, you can be held liable for all individual or joint credit cards as long as your name is on them. However, you are not liable for any credit card debt owed solely by your spouse in most cases.
Special Rules for Community Property States
When it comes to property distribution and debt allocation, certain states follow community property laws rather than the common law. In a community property state, most debts incurred by either spouse during the marriage (but not before or after marriage) are considered community debts. Therefore, both spouses are held equally liable for community debts even if only one spouse incurred the debt.
If living in a community property state, one may be on the hook for a credit card even if it is in the other spouse’s name only. However, each state also considers different factors when determining if an obligation is a community debt. Generally, if the credit card was used for something that benefited the marital community, it will be community debt regardless of who incurred the charges. But if one spouse used their own credit card to buy something that did not benefit the marriage, there is a greater chance it will not be considered a community debt.
What Happens If the Debt Was Assigned to A Specific Spouse in the Divorce?
The first thing to note is that credit card companies are not bound by the terms of the divorce decree or a family court order assigning the debt to a specific spouse. This is because when the credit card was obtained, either one party or both entered into a contract with the credit card company. Therefore, a family court judge does not have the power to alter the credit card company’s rights under the contract.
As a result, if a debt assigned to one spouse in the divorce, the other spouse may still be liable if their name was on the account, they are a cosigner, or it was a community debt. However, it may be less likely that a credit card company will pursue an assigned party based solely on community debt liability if it was the other spouse’s card).
However, if one spouse is ordered to pay a credit card in the divorce but fails to do so, they may be in violation of the divorce decree or court order. In that case, the other spouse will usually be entitled to reimbursement or damages from the exspouse if the other party ends up having to pay the debt.
Divorce and the Credit Report
Many divorced couples run into financial problems a few months after a divorce when an ex-spouse starts making late payments on a shared account. These late payments appear on both account holders’ credit reports, despite divorce decrees. Once the records appear on your credit report, it will show a negative status for those accounts that were not paid on time or not paid.
To avoid these issues, divorced couples should close or refinance all shared accounts if possible. Any shared credit cards, loans, and mortgages will continue to be a joint responsibility until you work directly with the financial institution to resolve the issue.
Divorce can lead to emotional strain, but it can also cause all sorts of financial problems. All those shared accounts and cosigned loans that once seemed so romantic are now the cause of the significant issue. The following important tips can help avoid financial damages that will show up on your credit report and stay on your consumer credit report there for years to come.
Managing Shared Accounts—It is not always possible to close or refinance your shared debts after a divorce. Mortgages and large loans can be challenging to refinance quickly. In this situation, you and your ex-spouse must work closely to manage a shared account. Remember, your credit may be damaged if your exspouse cannot handle the shared account responsibly, and vice versa.
One of the easiest ways to manage a shared debt with an ex-spouse is to set up online account access. You can easily log in to check on the loan’s payment status. If you see that the debt has not yet been paid for the month, you can contact your ex-spouse or decide to pay the bill yourself to avoid late payment and damage to your credit score. Encourage your ex-spouse to sign up for automatic payments that will deduct the bill from their accounts each month.
An ex-spouse with lousy credit may decide to ruin their former spouse’s credit by not paying a shared account. Remember that adverse reporting, such as chargeoffs, liens, judgments, bankruptcy filings, foreclosures, and repossessions related to shared accounts, can also appear on both account holders’ credit reports. Therefore, it is advisable to continue working with your ex-spouse to manage your shared finances after a divorce when at all possible.
As a divorce mortgage planner, the CDLP™ can help divorcing homeowners make a more informed decision regarding their home equity solutions while helping the professional divorce team identify any potential conflicts between the divorce settlement, home equity solutions, and real property issues.
Involving a Certified Divorce Lending Professional (CDLP™) early in the divorce settlement process can help the divorcing homeowners set the stage for successful mortgage financing in the future.
If you are looking to take out a Portland mortgage, The Lindley Team can walk you through the process and answer any questions you may have about mortgage rates and the different loan programs available in Oregon. Mortgages can be confusing to understand, especially if this is your first time buying a new home, so taking your time to research the mortgage process and seek out an experienced real estate agency is essential to the home buying process.