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How to Avoid Surprises with Post Decree Debt

Divorcees want to rid themselves of their former spouse, as well their financial entanglements with him (or her) as soon as possible. In the midst of splitting up, many divorcees misunderstand an important aspect of their financial obligation that can continue even after the divorce is finalized.

Essentially, they may think that once a judge signs off on a decree that assigns responsibility for paying jointly held bills, creditors will only pursue the person identified in the decree for payment. For example, if a husband is ordered to pay their share (or pay off) joint credit cards, car loans or other jointly held obligations, the wife can no longer be held liable for those debts.

Unfortunately, that may not be the case.

A divorce decree only binds the parties to the marriage, not their respective creditors. Thus, their legal right to collect payment for jointly held debts is not affected. The court's order is essentially a contract that sets forth each party's responsibility, and creditors do not have to adhere to it. So unfortunately, there can be situations where your ex has been ordered to make payments (on a credit card account, for example) and a creditor can still come after you if the payments have not been made.

Divorcees who find themselves in this dilemma still have legal recourse. A motion asking the court to find the offending party in contempt of court is a common remedy.

Even before getting to that stage, divorcing parties can protect themselves by paying close attention to how your divorce decree allocates responsibility for paying off debt. An experienced family law attorney can help you through the process.

Source: Equality In Marriage.org, Divorce and Dividing Debt

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