Can creditors go after me for credit card debt assigned to my ex?

On Behalf of | Feb 28, 2023 | Divorce

Most married couples in New Jersey have at least one credit card. If it is a joint credit card, that debt is assigned to one spouse or the other when the couple divorces. That spouse is responsible for paying the debt moving forward.

The question then becomes how is credit card debt divided in a New Jersey divorce and is there any chance I could be responsible for my ex-spouse’s credit card debt once the divorce is finalized?

Division of debt in New Jersey

Just like marital assets, in New Jersey, marital debts are divided through equitable distribution. This includes balances on credit cards.

Marital debts are those acquired by a spouse while married, including purchases put on credit cards. It does not always matter whether it is an individual credit card or a joint credit card.

Separate debts include credit card charges made by a spouse on an individual card prior to marriage. Charges made by a spouse after the filing of the divorce may also be separate debt unless it is a joint credit card.

When is one spouse responsible for the other spouse’s credit card payments?

Creditors are not bound by divorce decrees. If both spouses’ names remain on the joint credit card, both spouses are responsible for the debt, even if they divorce. If the spouse assigned to the debt on a joint credit card fails to make payments, the credit card company can seek payment from the other spouse, even if it goes against the divorce decree.

One way to mitigate this possibility is to pay off a joint credit card before the divorce is finalized and close the account. If this is not financially feasible, another option is to transfer the balance on the joint credit card to an individual credit card, and then close the joint account.

Note, however, that even if a spouse closes a joint account, anything spent up until that point is still the responsibility of both spouses, even if they are divorced. For this reason, many spouses going through a divorce choose to close all joint accounts as soon as they can.

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