DO I HAVE TO PAY MY EX-SPOUSE’S CREDIT CARD DEBT?
Thousands of Illinois marriages end in divorce each year, leaving couples to figure out how to deal with any marital debt that they have incurred over the duration of their relationship. Many couples are unable to work together amicably to come up with a solution that works for both parties, leaving it up to the courts to determine which spouse should be responsible for their various accounts.
According to a survey conducted by Bankrate.com, just over 50 percent of Americans do not have enough emergency cash on hand to pay off credit card debt. Debt.org reports that the average American household has over $15,000 in credit card debt. As a marriage falls apart, some spouses wonder what will happen with their credit card debt.
Division of debt in Illinois
State law requires that all marital debts be subject to property division. Any debt, acquired for a marital purpose during the marriage, including credit cards, are divided following the state’s equitable distribution laws. When dividing property, including debt, the courts often look at different factors to determine which spouse should be responsible. In order to make things as equitable as possible, some spouses may end up taking on more debt, while receiving greater amounts of marital assets to make up the difference.
The delinquent ex-spouse
Many people who have divorced mistakenly assume that debt that has been assigned to their ex-spouse will never be their problem again. Unfortunately, some ex-spouses decide to stop making payments on their assigned debt. Creditors are not required by law in Illinois to follow a judge’s orders, and they can begin collections against either spouse. This can leave one spouse responsible not only for the debt held on a co-signed credit card, but any interest and penalties as well.
Preventing credit card debt issues
While it is not always possible to do so, leaving a marriage without any jointly-held debt is the best way to ensure that one spouse is not saddled with all of the debt payments. Cancelling all co-signed credit cards and accounts before a divorce can prevent one spouse from racking up more debt before finalization. Early on in the divorce process, spouses maintain documentation regarding their debt so that there is a record of how much was held when the relationship ended. Another option is for spouses to file for bankruptcy together, ultimately ridding themselves of all debt before starting separate lives.
Handling a divorce as well as the complications that can arise regarding the division of debt can be stressful and complicated. Many Illinois couples choose to obtain legal counsel to provide assistance when determining how to handle credit card debt.
Should you have any questions about family law or would like to schedule a free initial consultation, please contact Waltz, Palmer & Dawson, LLC at (847)253-8800 or contact us online.
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