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Dividing debt in divorce

Florida residents who are planning to divorce may wonder what happens if the other spouse continues to accumulate joint debt on a credit card that is still in both of their names. Problems can arise if a spouse continues to use joint accounts that were granted to the other spouse as part of the property division agreement without making payments.

The best way to avoid a scenario where one spouse ends up responsible for another spouse's spending after the marriage has been dissolved is to immediately close joint accounts. Joint credit cards can be closed as soon as the spouses determine that they will not be able to reconcile. It is not necessary to wait for a divorce decree. After the request to close the account is made, the spouse can check back to make sure that the closure occurred.

In addition, some experts will recommend that spouses check their credit reports at least once each year to make sure that they are aware of all accounts with their names attached. It is much easier to stop a spouse from accumulating debts in the person's name than to recover that money later. However, if the divorce decree ordered the spouse to stop using the cards, the injured spouse may be able to file a motion for contempt of court. Even that will not relieve the innocent spouse of the legal obligation to pay the credit card bills, however, because the credit card company is not bound by the divorce decree. It can enforce the original credit card agreement.

When a spouse fails or refuses to comply with a divorce decree, a lawyer may be able to negotiate with the spouse to try to resolve the issue without going back to court. A modified agreement may allow the ex-spouse in debt to begin repayment.

Source: Fox Business, "Ex-wife racks up debt on joint accounts", Sally Herigstad, November 04, 2013

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