According to a recent advice column on FoxBusiness.com, post-divorce debt is an important issue that is often forgotten by the parties in the aftermath of the divorce. Many think that everything has been solved when the divorce decree becomes final; that once debt has been assigned to a particular spouse all the work is done. However, many have encountered the unpleasant reality that things are not always so simple.
According to a former bankruptcy judge and current lawyer R. Glen Ayers, “Most divorce decrees allocate liabilities for pre-divorce obligations between the former spouses. So, the husband agrees or is ordered to pay certain credit card obligations and similar debts. The wife may agree or be ordered to pay a car note or some other debts. While the divorce decree may allocate responsibility between the spouses, that decree does not release either spouse from the obligation to the creditor.”
The fact is that even if a settlement agreement lays out who is to pay what debt that does not mean that the other party is legally released from what once was a joint obligation. If the spouse responsible for continuing to make payments falls behind, then the other spouse remains liable, regardless of what the divorce decree says.
The Federal Trade Commission advises anyone considering divorce to pay special attention to the status of your credit accounts. If you maintain any joint accounts with your soon-to-be ex-spouse, it's critical that you continue making regular payments so that your credit record won't suffer. As long as there's a balance on a joint account, you both remain legally responsible for it.
If you do decide to divorce, your South Carolina family law attorney suggests that you may want to close joint accounts or accounts where your former spouse is listed as an authorized user. It's also possible to approach the creditor directly and ask that they convert the account to an individual account.
By law, a creditor cannot automatically close a joint account simply due to a change in marital status. However, creditors can close accounts at the request of either spouse. The creditor can require you to reapply on an individual basis and then, based on your new application, extend or deny you credit. If the debt in question is a mortgage, the creditor may then require the spouse responsible for maintaining the debt to refinance and thus totally remove the other spouse from the obligation.
Debt issues can make an already difficult divorce even more complex. If you find yourself grappling with financial questions, it's important to have an experienced South Carolina family law attorney on your side who understands the complexities of the money issues you face.
Source: “Where You Live Impacts Debt Liability in Divorce,” published at FoxBusiness.com.