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What happens to credit card debt in a divorce?

| Mar 19, 2020 | Divorce |

The asset division portion of a divorce often takes some time, especially if the couple has many assets. The process can also experience some slowdown if there is a lot of debt. Credit card debt, specifically, is challenging because of its unsecured status. 

U.S. News and World Report explains that debt is like an asset in a divorce, and the court will divide it between the couple. Arizona is a community property law, which means anything a couple acquires after they marry belongs to each person equally. That applies to debt as well. Like most things, though, what will happen is not straightforward. 

The creditor vs. the court 

When it comes to a debt, a creditor can only hold the person whose name is on the account responsible for the debt. This may cause issues in a divorce because the judge can make one spouse responsible for paying a debt that is only in the other spouse’s name. The issue comes up when someone decides not to pay. 

For example, if a court orders a husband to pay the credit card bill for his former wife and the husband decides not to make the payments, then the creditor cannot go after the husband to collect the debt. It will have to go after the wife, and it is her credit that will suffer. She will have to go back to court to get another order from the judge to make her former husband pay. 

Date incurred 

The date a person opened a credit card account is important in a divorce. The court will not divide debts that a person incurred prior to the marriage or after the filing of the divorce petition. Do note that a credit card a person opened prior to the marriage but that he or she used during the marriage to incur debt will become divisible under the state’s property division laws.