Credit card debt is something many Americans live with. Because of this, it shouldn’t be surprising that credit card debt is often an issue in divorce. Our readers know that in divorce, it isn’t only assets that are divided, but also debts. So how is credit card debt split up? There are a couple layers to the credit card issue that need to be understood in order to answer the question.
First of all, married couples that jointly sign for a credit card are jointly liable for the debt. Even if they agree in their divorce that one or the other will pay for all or a certain amount of the debt, the lender can ultimately go after either one to get their due. That is not the case for spouses that are authorized users, though. For these folks, there is no liability to pay credit card debt.
In community property states, though, there is the added issue of marital debt. In community property states—and Texas is one—spouses may be jointly liable for credit card debt incurred during their marriage, regardless of whether or not one was only an authorized user.
Spouses that are going through divorce are sometimes concerned—sometimes rightly so—that their ex will continue to incur debt during divorce without taking the responsibility of paying that debt. In such cases, the best thing to do is ask the lender to freeze the account. If this isn’t possible, a concerned spouse can either ask their spouse to do so, or seek out legal assistance in the matter.
In terms of how divorce courts will handle credit card debt, it all depends on the property settlement agreement. Even though one spouse may get stuck paying debt they did not agree to pay in the divorce, a court can enforce the agreement as a contract. So remember that there is always recourse with the court.
Source: Fox Business, “Divorce and Card Debt in Community Property States,” Sally Herigstad, July 17, 2013.