BACK

Opening Credits

Spouse can’t stop spending? Get a ‘financial divorce’

Summary

If a spouse repeatedly overspends, do what you can to rein in the bad spending habits — but also protect your credit by separating yourself financially

The editorial content below is based solely on the objective assessment of our writers and is not driven by advertising dollars. However, we may receive compensation when you click on links to products from our partners. Learn more about our advertising policy.

The content on this page is accurate as of the posting date; however, some of the offers mentioned may have expired. Please see the bank’s website for the most current version of card offers; and please review our list of best credit cards, or use our CardMatch™ tool to find cards matched to your needs.

Question for the CreditCards.com expert

Dear Opening Credits,
I want to stop my husband from opening any more credit cards. Can I do this? Here’s the story: He got us into debt one too many times. I keep bailing us out, and he keeps promising he’ll never do it again. He cries and says he loves us and doesn’t want to lose us, but up go those bills, and new cards keep being added. Honestly, I feel like divorcing him but I can’t because we have two young kids. Then again, I feel like he’s robbing them of a good life that they deserve. How do I cut him off? Please, I’m going crazy over here. Thanks for your help in advance. — Gia

Answer for the CreditCards.com expertDear Gia,
Yup, you are definitely in a loony-making situation. I can just imagine how vexing it’s been to never know if you’re in debt or not, and to wonder how many new accounts he’s in the process of opening. It’s not right. But it’s happening, and here’s what you can do about it.

Clearly, you’ve already had many serious talks with your husband, and nothing is getting through to him. This means he has a problem that he is unable to solve on his own. Therefore, your first step is to contact Debtors Anonymous (DA) today. He needs help from professionals to figure out why he’s making such destructive financial choices and to get the tools he needs to get better.

Of course, DA can’t cure everything. You want to be able to prevent your husband from obtaining any new lines of credit or loans, and I’m afraid that’s not really possible. As an adult, he’s free to do anything legal that he wants. And this means filling out all of the applications he can get his hands on when you’re not around. That’s a scary thought, but it is reality.

So what else can you do to protect yourself and your family’s finances from a husband who can’t control his charging? Well, you can remove all credit cards from his possession. Then again, he may have the account numbers, and if he’s shopping online, that’s all he needs to spend with them. So you may be better off having him close the accounts entirely and living without credit while he’s working on his problem.

Also, pull your credit reports on a regular basis to check up on new accounts. Make sure you look at both his and yours, as credit reports are not merged for married couples.And if you are an authorized user on any of his cards, I would suggest getting yourself removed from those immediately so your credit score isn’t impacted by his transgressions.

Because there are some legal matters to consider, I spoke about your circumstances with my friend, Jeena Cho, a San Francisco lawyer who specializes in debt issues. Her warnings to you: “Depending on the state, you may be liable for your husband’s debt,” says Cho. You don’t say where you live, but if it’s in a community property state such as California, “when two people get married, it creates a ‘community,’ which is defined as any property acquired or debt accrued after marriage.”

Cho and I agree that the time has come to get a “financial divorce” from your husband. How?

  1. Stop bailing him out! Eventually, he will be unable to make his credit card payments and his credit score will go down. You’re actually enabling his bad behavior by making his payments for him.
  2. Get your own bank account, if you don’t have one already.
  3. Keep your finances separate as much as possible so he can’t use your credit and money in your account.
  4. Arrange to have money automatically transferred from his account into yours on the day he gets paid — before he has a chance to spend it.
  5. Consider meeting with a family law attorney to discuss the possibility of a postnuptial agreement to make sure all of his debts stay with him in case of a divorce.

Doing all this work and being so vigilant is exhausting, though. You’ll probably always have, in the back of your mind, some fear that he’s fallen off the wagon or hasn’t kept his promises. For this reason, I suggest that you, too, get counseling or go to DA. You deserve the support and guidance of experts who can help you deal with his charging addiction.

See related:Divorce and debt: A special section, A guide to community property, Shopping and credit cards, How to cancel a credit cardLiving without credit

What’s up next?

In Opening Credits

6 steps for handling your 1st credit card wisely

A reader just got her first student credit card and wonders what to do with it once she’s “done” with it. Our expert tells her, but not before offering some tips for using her card wisely.

Published: September 8, 2010

See more stories
Credit Card Rate Report Updated: May 24th, 2019
Business
15.61%
Airline
17.50%
Cash Back
17.60%
Reward
17.62%
Student
17.79%

Questions or comments?

Contact us

Editorial corrections policies

Learn more

Join the Discussion

We encourage an active and insightful conversation among our users. Please help us keep our community civil and respectful. For your safety, do not disclose confidential or personal information such as bank account numbers or social security numbers. Anything you post may be disclosed, published, transmitted or reused.

The editorial content on CreditCards.com is not sponsored by any bank or credit card issuer. The journalists in the editorial department are separate from the company’s business operations. The comments posted below are not provided, reviewed or approved by any company mentioned in our editorial content. Additionally, any companies mentioned in the content do not assume responsibility to ensure that all posts and/or questions are answered.