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Joint credit card debt best addressed before finalizing divorce

The process of divorce is challenging, and, without professional guidance, important matters may be left unaddressed. As property division and child custody issues typically receive most of the attention of the parties during a divorce, existing credit card debt is often overlooked. Former spouses in New Jersey may find that these debts can come back to haunt them.

A divorced woman recently sought advice about credit card debt that remained unpaid 10 years after her divorce was finalized. She explained that she and her former husband had two credit cards held jointly while they were married. When they divorced, they agreed that each party would maintain and be responsible for one of the credit cards. The ex-wife had finally paid off the card she kept, when she found that her former husband was still using the the other card and that the balance on it was about $10,000.

This is a dangerous situation, because, although the former husband has apparently been paying the minimum amount every month, the ex-wife is still jointly responsible for the balance. If anything should happen to the ex-husband, she will be held liable for the full amount. The best way to avoid such a situation will be for the woman to contact the credit card company, explain her situation and request the account to be closed. She may have to provide proof of the divorce, but the former husband will then have to open a separate account and arrange for the balance to be transferred.

This case may demonstrate to new Jersey consumers how important it is to make sure all matters are addressed before a divorce is finalized. The solution to this woman's problem is largely dependent on the former husband's willingness to apply for a balance transfer. Although she will be able to prove that he used the card for the past 10 years, she will remain partly responsible for the credit card debt. She may benefit from consulting with an experienced attorney to further explain her legal options.

Source: Slate, "My Ex Won't Take Me off Our Joint Credit Card. What Do I Do?", Helaine Olen, March 30, 2016

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