Joint Credit Accounts: What Happens When You and Your Spouse Split Up
Authored By: Montana Legal Services Association (MLSA)
What is a joint credit account?
A joint credit account is a credit account that spouses have together. Many times, both spouses' names are on the account. An example of a joint credit account is a credit card. Another example is a home mortgage. Much of the time, spouses owe a debt on the account.
What happens to our joint credit accounts when we get a dissolution?
Most spouses split the joint accounts up when they divorce. That means they decide who should pay for the debt. If they can't decide who should pay for the debt, the Court will decide. The dissolution decree signed by the Court will say who has to pay for the debt.
The dissolution decree says that my ex-spouse has to pay for the debt, but she hasn't paid. Can the creditor come after me?
Yes. You are still responsible to pay the creditor for the debt if your name is on the account. You may have to pay the debt to keep your good credit. This is true even if the Court said your ex-spouse has to pay the debt.
I paid the debt that the Court said my ex-spouse had to pay. I paid it to keep my good credit. How can I make my ex-spouse pay me back?
If you have to pay your ex-spouse's debt because your name is still on the account, you can ask the Court to make your ex pay you back. One way to do this is to ask the Court to hold your ex-spouse in contempt for failing to pay the debt. Contempt means that someone didn't do something that the Court ordered.
I don't want a joint account anymore. Is there a way to change the account so only one person's name is on it?
Creditors will often agree to put the account in one person's name if both the people who have the account agree. However, the person whose name will be on the account often has to go through another credit check and qualify for the account. If there is a debt on the account, that person will have to refinance the debt. If the person who agrees to take the debt cannot requalify for the account, most creditors will not take the other person's name off the account.