Question 9. Why am I liable for credit card debt when my divorce decree says I'm not?
As many of you know, when you go through divorce a court order issues as to which party (Husband or Wife) is responsible for each debt incurred during the marriage. Most couples obtain credit cards or other accounts jointly during the marriage. At your court hearing or in a settlement agreement, each debt is assigned to a party if it is not paid by the sale of an asset or by some other means. The spouse that has been told he or she is NOT responsible for paying that particular debt, is left with the misguided assumption that he or she is "off the hook" with the creditor. However, as far as the creditor is concerned, BOTH parties are still liable for the debt. The Judgment (or Final Decree) may order the other party to pay the debt and state that you are not ?responsible? for the debt any longer. This is misleading. The contract you signed with the creditor is a separate legal issue from the divorce. Since the creditor is not a ?party to the action? in the divorce, the Family Law judge cannot issue an order to the creditor to remove you from liability for the debt. It does not mean that creditors have more power than a Judge, it just means this particular Judge does not have jurisdiction in any civil matter between you and the creditor. Your remedy is to sue your former spouse to make them obey the Judge?s order to pay the debt. However, by the time that happens, the damage has already been done to your credit report. If you find yourself in this situation, consult an attorney about what would be the best course of action.
Even if you are eventually able to make your ex-spouse start paying the bill, this does not correct your credit report from the damage already incurred. The only thing you can do is to ask the creditor to remove the past due payments due to your divorce decree, but in most cases the creditor is going to tell you that they can't or won?t do so.
If you are dealing with a divorce, monitor your credit
report closely and make sure that your "ex" is actually paying the
debt they are supposed to be paying. If
you find out the bill is not being paid, pay it yourself, and then try to
recover your payment through the court. I
know that is not what you want to hear, but believe me, it's much better that
having your credit score drop 100 points because of an ex-spouse not following
the court order.
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