From Megan Thomas: If I file for divorce, yet still have some joint credit accounts with my husband that I haven't yet closed, am I responsible for any debt he incurs during this time? Also, what is the smartest financial move for me: saving up some money and stashing it away, or working hard to pay down the debt we have together so I'm not burdened with it during the divorce?
Stacy Francis writes:
Don't let your ex ruin your credit and don't stick your head in the sand!
Once you've identified your debt, of course, your main goal is to keep it from getting any worse. The easy and quick way to do this is to close any joint credit card accounts prior to becoming separated or as soon as possible after separation. At the very least, you should refrain from using any joint cards once you are separated and open up your own credit card accounts.
If you and your spouse are cooperating with each other, you may be able to agree on a card or two that will remain in effect for designated purposes subject to designated limits on spending.
What happens if you keep the card open and your spouse makes a barrage of new charges? Generally, your husband will be held responsible for any debt that he incurs after the date of your separation.
Don't forget that if your husband does not make the payments on this joint card, you will be held responsible. Credit card companies want their money, and if your husband is not able to pay them, then they will certainly come knocking on your door. This could wreak havoc on your finances and your credit report.
The smartest move is to make sure that the minimum payments for any debt that you or your spouse have are being made on time throughout the divorce. You want to make sure to maintain a good credit score before, during, and after divorce.
Once you have paid the minimums on your credit cards, I recommend that you open up an individual savings or investment account solely in your name after separation. Only deposit income earned after separation into this account. This will be considered a separate asset. However there is some grey area when it comes to income earned during the marriage. For example, a bonus earned while you were married but paid after separation is determined to have been earned during the marriage and is partially classified as a joint asset.
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