MOUNTAIN HOME AIR FORCE BASE, Idaho --
John and Jane Doe recently divorced. The divorce decree stated John would pay the balance of their three joint credit card accounts. Several months later, all three creditors contact Jane for payment on the accounts. Jane referred them to the divorce decree, insisting she was not responsible for the accounts. The creditors stated they were not parties to the divorce decree and Jane was still legally responsible for paying off the joint accounts. Jane later found out the late payments appeared on her own credit report. What can she do?
If you have been through a divorce or are contemplating one, you may find yourself in, or wanting to avoid, Jane's position.
Since Idaho is a community property state, both spouses are generally responsible for debts incurred during the marriage - even if the account is an individual account acquired in the name of only one spouse. If the account is a joint account, each spouse may be legally responsible to the creditor for the entire debt. This is true even if a divorce decree assigns separate debt obligations to each spouse.
If you are contemplating divorce, pay close attention to the status of your credit accounts. If you maintain joint accounts, it is important to ensure appropriate, timely payments are made so your credit record won't suffer. If your divorce decree states one party is responsible for the joint account, you should continue to monitor those accounts to ensure your ex-spouse is actually paying those accounts.
If requested by either spouse, a creditor may agree to change a joint account to an individual account. However, the creditor is not required to do so. If the creditor refuses, and your ex-spouse is not paying those accounts, you can continue to pay them in order to protect your own credit. You may be able to then seek court-ordered reimbursement from your ex-spouse.
If you find yourself in the same situation as Jane, or if you need further information on this or other legal topics, please visit the Air Force Legal Assistance website at https://aflegalassistance.law.af.mil
or call 828-2238 to schedule an appointment with an attorney.