Dividing Marital Debt: Protect Your Credit When Going Through a Divorce

When most couples say the words "for richer or for poorer" on their wedding day, they usually are not thinking about the actual financial ramifications of their vows. However, the financial consequences of joint debt can become a harsh reality if a couple subsequently files for divorce.

Many people erroneously believe that divorce is simply about determining how to divide assets - but the division of debt is equally as important. Although your divorce decree may state that your former spouse is responsible for certain debts that were incurred during the marriage, creditors are not bound by these orders and can pursue either party in the event that your former spouse does not keep up with this payment responsibility. Lenders are legally permitted to pursue you for payment, regardless of the court orders.

However, there are ways that you can protect your credit future as you cut the cord to your marital past. Some options to consider:

  • Agree to pay off all marital debts as you are going through the process of divorce - which is sometimes done by using joint assets, such as equity in a home or savings, to eliminate the debt
  • Cancel all joint credit cards when you're sure that a divorce is imminent, in order to prevent further debt from incurring
  • Open credit accounts in your own name to help re-establish your personal credit record
  • Consult a bankruptcy attorney or credit counseling service

If you are in a situation where your former spouse fails to pay his or her portion of the joint marital debt, you can handle the situation by seeking relief in court. If your former spouse is delinquent, you have the option to pay off the debt yourself, and seek judgment from the court for reimbursement. You may also petition the court to enforce the agreement - by compelling your former spouse to pay these bills. If you have any questions about dividing debt and protecting your credit during a divorce, please seek the advice of an experienced family law attorney.