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Divorce and credit card debt: What you need to know

You’ve heard the statistic time and time again: half of U.S. marriages end in divorce. But divorce entails more than just an emotional separation. Usually, spouses obtain a lot during their time together, which can include credit card debt.

Since Ohio is an equitable distribution state, courts typically assign debt payments only to those who are liable. If you and your spouse share joint credit cards, you’ll likely be responsible for paying down those debts together. If each of you incurs debt on separate credit cards, you will likely be individually responsible for making those payments.

However, it’s not always that simple, as some people may use credit cards in their spouse’s name or have access to their spouse’s personal accounts.

What if my spouse racks up credit card debt in my name?

This can get complicated. Typically, courts draft up divorce decrees, spelling out the rights and responsibilities of couples upon their separation. If the order says your spouse is responsible for any debt in your name, they’re typically obligated to pay it. Unfortunately, if the spouse doesn’t make the payments, credit card companies can still hold you liable for the balance. Even though you didn’t accumulate the debt yourself, creditors aren’t always willing to remove your name from the account and transfer it to your spouse.

How can I lower my chances of financial turmoil?

Working with your soon-to-be ex-spouse isn’t always easy. But if you want to avoid financial turmoil before you begin the process, you can protect yourself with these tips:

  • Protect your accounts: In some cases, your spouse may have access to your bank accounts. If you’re worried they might access your finances, you may want to close the accessible accounts and open new ones. This can help you protect your money and your credit score.
  • Close joint accounts: Closing joint accounts is equally as crucial. Fortunately, you don’t always need your spouse’s approval to shut these down, making it easier to protect what money is yours. However, you’ll want to make sure your spouse keeps the funds they put in there.
  • Build up your own credit: If you and your spouse only have shared credit cards, you may want to obtain your own, so you can start to improve your score if it took a hit. Doing so can help give you some financial footing once your separation finalizes.

Sorting out money matters comes with challenges

Divorce is no easy feat. And when you and your spouse have credit card issues, it can make matters more complicated. Luckily, a trusted legal partner can help you understand your rights and obligations and help clear your path to post-marital financial independence.


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