A Law Career

Divorce And Credit Card Debt: The Basics

by Ruby Mckinney

Getting divorced is a difficult experience in the best of circumstances, but it's even more complicated when a large amount of credit card debt is involved. Credit card obligations cannot be ignored, however, even when a marriage is dissolving. Not dealing effectively with this issue could put your financial future at risk. This article looks at some of the basic facts you need to know concerning this serious topic. 


Perhaps the key question regarding the issue of credit card debt and divorce is whether you are responsible for the debt. A crucial factor is the state law where you live. State laws on this matter fall under two categories: common law or community property. Here is a closer look at each

Common Law 

Generally, in common law states, which are the majority, you are only responsible for a credit card debt if your name is on the agreement. So, if your spouse ran up a large debt on a card with only his or her name on the agreement, then you are not legally responsible for the debt in most cases. A possible exception to this rule is when the debt is incurred for something that benefits the entire family. 

Community Property 

A minority of states follow the principle of community property, which says that debts incurred during the marriage are the responsibility of both spouses. This means that you are generally responsible for any credit card debt that accumulated during the marriage, even if the debt involved was on a card that was in your spouse's name alone. 

Even though all states follow one of these two legal principles, there are typically certain variations that apply, depending on the specific laws in your state. 

Protecting Yourself 

The best way to protect yourself from the complications of credit card debt and divorce is to eliminate the debt before the divorce proceeds and then close the accounts. This, of course, depends on whether you are in a strong enough position financially to pay off the debt and whether you spouse agrees to pay his or her fair share. 

If the two of you are not able to pay off the debt, then another possibility is to close all of your joint accounts and have equal shares of the money put into separate accounts. 

Credit card debt and divorce is a thorny issue that must be addressed efficiently to avoid potential financial distress. For more information, consult an attorney with experience in these matters. Contact a legal group like Baudler, Maus, Forman, Kritzer & Wagner, LLP for more details.