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Joseph R. Zoucha, Attorney & Counselor at Law

Who is going to pay the credit card bill after your divorce?

Like many other Americans, you may use your credit card for a variety of purchases. You may use your card to buy your groceries for the week, pay for a medical bill you received or even to pay for your vacation if you currently don't have the money in hand. As a result, you may have a significant amount of credit card debt.

You may be able to effectively manage your credit card debt with income from both you and your spouse, but what will happen in the event of a divorce? If you are facing the prospect of ending your marriage, you would be wise to think about what will happen to your marital debt. It is in your interests to ensure you do not emerge from the divorce process with an unfair debt burden that you cannot carry on your own.

Your obligations after divorce

Unfortunately, the credit card company does not care that you are going through a divorce or recently divorced. Someone has to pay, but should it be you if you are not the only cardholder? Who is responsible if both you and your ex-spouse bought things with the credit card together? 

Family law courts handle credit card debt in different ways. What the court decides is equitable in your situation may depend on how long the marriage lasted, what you earn each month and for what you used the credit card. It may help to understand the following:

  • A person is responsible for any debt in his or her name -- that responsibility does not go away in the event of a divorce.
  • California is a community property state, which means that both spouses are likely equally liable for credit card debt accumulated during the marriage.
  • Debts you or your spouse had before marriage are not community property, and you are solely responsible for these debts.
  • If both parties used or enjoyed things purchased with a credit card, a judge may determine both parties are liable for it.

It's easy to focus on issues such as property division and child custody during a divorce. You would be wise not to overlook the importance of fighting for a fair and equitable division of your credit card debts as well.

Fighting for the future you deserve

You have the right to pursue a strong and stable post-divorce future. Divorce is a complex and emotionally charged process, and whether you are going to court or settling your divorce in negotiations, it is prudent to make choices based on what will be best long-term, not your temporary emotions and feelings.

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