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How to dissolve joint debt after divorce

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Credit Care
'Credit Care' columnist Tanisha Warner
Tanisha Warner is the communications manager for Money Management International, where she manages educational content designed to teach consumers about personal finance topics. She writes "Credit Care," a weekly reader Q&A about debt issues, for CreditCards.com.

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Question for the CreditCards.com expert Dear Credit Care, 
Per our divorce decree my ex spouse is to pay a credit card debt in both of our names. I tried removing my name, but in order to do that he needs to qualify for a card on his own and his credit is bad. Is there another way? -- Michelle

Answer for the CreditCards.com expert Dear Michelle,
Unfortunately, at times it is much more difficult to separate financially from a spouse than it is to separate physically. When possible, it is best to convert joint debt into separate accounts for each spouse before the divorce is final. However, as in your situation, it is not always feasible. What you can do is assure that any joint credit card or revolving accounts are closed so that no additional charges can be added by either person. Either person named on a joint account can request that the account be closed.

When you are still joined financially to your ex spouse by joint accounts after the divorce, things can get messy. But they don't have to. You can do your best to have a civil relationship with your former spouse and communicate with him regarding the credit card account. If that's possible, you have a few options for making sure the payments are made on the joint credit card account. First, assure that you have access to the account online, so you will know when and if payments are made. You will than have the option to make a payment on the account to avoid a late payment notice on your credit report if your ex does not make a payment.

Second, see if your ex open can a new credit card account with a co-signer and transfer the balance from the joint account to the new account. His credit may not be good enough to qualify on his own, but he may qualify for a new account with a co-signer. 

Lastly, your ex may have been awarded an asset in the divorce such as a boat or motorcycle that could be sold to satisfy the joint account. The key is to keep the lines of communication open and work to pay off any joint accounts as quickly as possible.

Should you have an acrimonious relationship with your ex spouse, it may be more difficult to communicate regarding the joint account. Keep track of the account online and if payments are not made, you can decide at that time if you would like to make the minimum payment due to keep your credit in good standing. You could seek the advice of your divorce attorney should your ex spouse stop paying on the account. In that case, it may be worth it for your peace of mind and your credit rating to just pay the account yourself. 

Handle your credit with care!

See related: Ex racks up $40,000 on old joint credit card, When your ex doesn't pay on joint accounts

Tanisha Warner is the communications manager for Money Management International, the largest nonprofit, full-service credit counseling agency in the United States. She manages educational content designed to teach consumers about personal finance topics. You can find more money management advice on Blogging for Change and MMI's Facebook page.

Credit Care answers a question about a debt or credit issue from a CreditCards.com reader each week. Send your question to Credit Care.

Published: November 5, 2012


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