Credit card debt during divorce

Pennsylvania couples who seek a divorce will need to negotiate how to divide the assets and liabilities incurred during their marriage. One of the areas of debt that many couples will need to deal with is the one resulting from the use of credit cards.

Some couples might choose to use joint credit card accounts. Others might have a primary account holder with their spouse as an authorized user on the account. In a joint account, both people are responsible for paying what is owed, but when someone is an authorized user, only the account holder is truly liable. Being careful about how joint credit card debt is divided during the dissolution of the marriage is important for a person’s future financial health.

The steps for division of assets and liabilities

The division of assets and liabilities in a divorce has several steps. They include:

  • The discovery step where both parties provide their lawyers with affidavits of all debts and liabilities so the lawyers can review them and figure out their client’s liability
  • The negotiation step where lawyers then negotiate on behalf of their clients how assets and liabilities will actually be divided
  • The court’s acceptance of the negotiated agreement and any additional court-ordered arrangements

What the law states

Pennsylvania law states that people are only responsible for the debt in their name and joint debt incurred, even if they were only an authorized user in the account. However, in some cases a judge might rule that people must pay debt for which they are not originally responsible for.

If you are considering a divorce, it is a good idea to begin planning how to divide credit card debt even before the process begins. This might begin with closing joint cards where no money is owed or by removing authorized users. An attorney can often provide guidance in this regard.

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