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Who is Responsible for Credit Card Debt in Divorce?

Epic Loans Editorial Team

Who is Responsible for Credit Card Debt in Divorce

According to a report, the average cost of a marriage in the US is $29,000, while that of a divorce is $20,000. Complicated divorces involving child custody and estate claims can increase this expense to $100,000 or more.”

The fees of a divorce lawyer, court, and travel are just a few of the expenses. However, do not forget the credit card debt that could be substantial and may impact your credit score. Couples often share credit cards to manage expenses and bills. Joint credit card accounts make both parties liable for the debt, even if only one person used it.

So, who is responsible for credit card debt in a divorce?

This article explains the responsibilities of handling credit card debt in a divorce, the impact on the credit score, and dividing assets and debts.

Who is Legally Responsible for the Credit Card Debt in a Divorce?

If you own a joint credit card, both parties may be responsible for paying off the debt, depending on the state you live in the US.

States manage credit card debt either as a ‘community property’ or ‘common law’ property. If you live in a state that follows common law, the party who incurred the debt is responsible for its repayment. States that follow community property hold both parties equally responsible.

Currently, nine states, Arizona, Idaho, Louisiana, California, Nevada, Texas, Washington, New Mexico, and Wisconsin follow the community property law. In these states, both parties are responsible for –

  • Credit card debts (joint or sole owner)
  • Debts that you co-sign
  • Credit card debt of your spouse for expenses during marriage

The other 41 states follow the common law.

In some cases, the judge can veto the state law and assign the debt equally or to one party. However, this does not change the contract you hold with the credit card company.

Will the Divorce Impact My Credit Score?

Your credit report does not have your marital status and will not change due to a divorce. However, if you hold joint credit card accounts, it may have an impact depending on how you repay the dues.

Any accounts that you co-sign or those in which you are an authorized user will appear on your credit report. If your spouse delays or skips the payments, your credit score may go down. Even if the court makes your spouse accountable for repayments, you still hold a contract with the credit card company.

Other ways a divorce can impact your credit score are –

  • Changing income: A divorce may accompany alimony and child support as an added expense. This may affect your credit repayment capacity for some time.
  • Closing joint credit card accounts: By closing an account, your credit utilization ratio may increase. Remember to keep the overall credit utilization ratio below 30% for a healthy credit score.

If you relied on a good credit score based on timely payments by your ex-spouse, you may now be fully responsible for paying off the remaining debt and managing your credit history.

Read More: How Does Debt Consolidation Affect Your Credit Score

When are Men Liable for their Wife’s Debt?

In dual-income relationships, couples apply for joint financing for large purchases such as a house or a car. They may also hold joint credit cards with smaller loans. By getting joint loans, couples can get better interest rates and terms. Some of the scenarios to consider for debt liability are:

Property Mortgages

If both parties have their names on a property mortgage, they are jointly responsible for repayment. Alternatively, if only one party has the name on the mortgage, the court will consider their financial situation, children, and whether the house is a community property before assigning the debt repayment responsibility.

Student Loans

Student loans follow the same set of rules as those for property mortgages. If you took the loan during the marriage, both parties may be equally responsible for the repayment, depending on the state you live in.

Auto Loans

If you co-signed an auto loan for your spouse’s car, you are accountable for its repayment. It is best to either sell the car and split the profits or refinance so that only the owner of the car is accountable for future payments.

Personal Loans

As the name suggests, personal loans are always the responsibility of the party that took it. However, if your spouse has co-signed the loan, the bank may approach either of the parties for repayment.

Who is Responsible for Credit Card Debt in Divorce

How to Protect Credit Score During a Divorce?

Divorces are financially and emotionally exhausting. If possible, both parties must work together to lower the stress by paying off the debt and closing joint accounts amicably. Remove the co-signer from the account before applying for a divorce for healthy credit scores.

Close Existing Joint Accounts

Separate joint accounts, divide the debt and refinance any loans where your spouse is a co-signer. Follow this checklist to make the debt repayment or division easier:

  • Sell the asset and use the money to repay the debt
  • Refinance the loan to the name of the primary holder
  • Close joint credit cards
  • Remove cards with authorized-user status

Check for Any Other Credit Card Debt

If you hold multiple credit cards, it is easy to forget some. You may also hold sizeable reward points. It is best to account for each card, debt amount, and reward points while sorting the finances before the divorce process is complete.

Paying for Divorce Expenses Using the Credit Card

The divorce payments depend on whether the lawyer accepts a credit card and if there is any surcharge.

How to Divide Assets and Debts in a Divorce?

Couples often start their life’s journey together with the mantra – ‘What is mine is yours’, which can lead to financial pain if they are not practical. Here are some steps to follow early on in case of a divorce:

  • Stop using joint credit card accounts and keep the debt ownership clear
  • Close the joint accounts
  • Remove the name of the co-signer from joint credit card or loan accounts
  • Keep track of the spending activity to know who is responsible for the debt
  • Refinance the loans into the name of the primary holder
  • Pay as much community debt as possible before proceeding with the divorce

Consolidate the Debt

After you separate your debt from that of your spouse, it may be difficult to manage it. It is best to consolidate the credit card debt after a divorce with lower interest rates.

Your personal credit score and financial stability will play a major role in getting a credit card debt consolidation loan.

Do not consolidate the debt of your ex-spouse in your new account, as it will become your responsibility.


We understand that separating debt and sorting finances is easier said than done when both partners are going through emotional turmoil. If you have children, your priority may be to give them emotional security and care.

The question to ask yourself is – ‘Is it worth complicating a divorce on issues as small as credit card debt and asset division?

Perhaps, it is time to simplify the process, make it as short as possible with the help of Epic Loans, and create a new life for yourself and your children.

Learn more about personal loans and debt consolidation at Epic Loans.

Frequently Asked Questions

How is credit card debt divided in a divorce?

Credit card debt division depends on the state you live in and whether it follows the ‘community property law’ or ‘common law’. It also depends on whether you are the sole owner or joint owner of the credit card with your spouse. Repayment of any accounts where you are the co-signer is the responsibility of both parties.

In what state are you responsible for your wife’s debt?

Currently, nine states in the US have the ‘community property law’ where you can be held responsible for your wife’s debt:

Can you be liable for your wife’s credit card debt in a divorce?

If you live in any of the nine states in the US that follow the ‘community property law’, the court may hold you responsible for paying your wife’s debt.