View Full Version : Credit Card Debt - who's responsible?

01-09-2010, 12:35 PM
I'm not sure if this is the right place for this topic but here goes. I've got a question for the lawyer type folks regarding credit card debt. Here's the situation:

Guy has a credit card. He meets Girl, they get married, he has a credit card on HIS account issued with her name on it. Throughout the course of their marriage, they use the card for mostly big ticket items. The balance is paid off on more than one occasion, then run up again. During the marriage, the couple kept their finances mostly seperate. They had a joint checking account, and individual accounts. All bills, including the monthly credit card bill were split 50/50 & paid from the joint account. Girl paid $100/month towards the credit card. After a 6yr marriage, Girl leaves Guy and he cancels the card with her name on it - but he keeps the account open. Even though she doesn't have a card with her name on it anymore, Girl continues paying her $100/mo. Couple officially divorces and nowhere in the divorce decree is the credit card debt mentioned. They have verbally agreed to split the debt & Girl intends to pay it in one lump sum but wasn't able to pay the full amount at once, so she continued paying $100/mo. She has been paying for the lst 3yrs 4 months, for a total of $4000. The original amount she agreed to pay was in the neighborhood of $4200. She thinks that she is getting close to being paid off but Guy says "No, Girl still owes the FULL amount."

Turns out, Guy not only kept the account open he continued using the card after they split up. He used it to purchase furniture for the apartment he moved into after vacating the marital home (he refused to take any of their existing furniture) then a year later he used the card to finance a move to New Mexico. He charged the card up so much that the amount that was being paid monthly was only barely covering the minimum amount due, which means it wasn't actually paying down the outstanding balance.

My question is (sorry for such a long post!) who is actually responsible? The account was his before the marriage, her name was never on the account (just a card issued with her name on it). She's paid $4000 of her agreed upon $4200, yet he maintains that she still owes him $4200. Is that correct? He's threatened to take her to court if she stops paying $100/month without paying a lump sum of $4200.

01-09-2010, 02:01 PM
Unfortunately, there's no legal remedy for doucebag exes, amiright?

There are some fifteen dollar words I'd have to better explain this situation. But who on Earth would draft a decree just leaving out $4,000 in joint debt?

Tell her she probably ought to go talk to a lawyer. Seek one out who doesn't charge for initial consults.

01-09-2010, 02:20 PM
Ditto, she needs a lawyer who can represent her on this. As long as it can be proven that the ex-husband continued to use the card after the divorce and that she only paid down on it, it seems rather clear whose debt it is. She also needs to make notes in her credit report regarding the situation.

01-09-2010, 03:45 PM
The divorce was a do it yourself jobby. Downloaded the forms from the internet, filled out all the necessary fields, took it to Cleveland Cty Courthouse & fault, irreconcilable differences. The house was refinanced & a quit claim deed signed by him so it was put into her name. He got money from that. The only joint debt was that single credit card.

Proving that he continued using it would be easy based on the dates of the charges versus the date they split up & when he cancelled her card. Proving her payments is easy too, because for convenience sake the joint bank account was kept open. The only activity on it since they split is her payment being transferred from her account to the joint, his portion of the payment being direct deposited from his employer & the payment to the credit card company.

So do you think she's done her part to pay her portion of the debt and that ultimately it's HIS responsibility since the account is in his name? Since the account was always in HIS name she's thinking he's technically legally responsible since they don't have a written agreement for her to pay. For her, it's more of a moral obligation. She understands that she was part of accumulating the debt & feels obligated to help pay it down but for him to come back and claim that she still owes the full amount... it's just really frustrating.

Thanks for the replies!

01-09-2010, 03:51 PM
If I understood you correctly, they paid off the card and then charged it up again while married. Since this was done while they were married, the assets bought are jointly owned assets and they are both responsible for the payment of the assets. No matter what the "handshake" agreement, unless it is all cleanly done and clearly stated in writing, the credit card company will take the view that she will still be jointly responsible for the payment of the debt until it is paid - even though he was "supposed" to pay it.

I still think she needs a lawyer to iron out all the extenuating circumstances and clear it all up once and for all. It may be that a court may put the onus on him once all the evidence is presented. A lawyer can also help to determine if there are other bombshells waiting that she failed to know or consider.

01-09-2010, 07:19 PM
The card was paid off a few times. Anytime extra money came along, the balance was paid off or at least greatly reduced. This probably doesn't make any difference but the items purchased on the card that ran it up so high during the marriage was a television & entertainment center that he kept possession of. There was never anything in writing about the credit card bill. The divorce decree makes no mention of it. Her name was never on the account. Just a card with her name on it.

I would think that since the account is, and always was, in his name that the legal responsibility would ultimately be his. Especially since she made monthly payments and didn't continue using the card after they seperated.

Definitely sounds like a visit to the attorney's office is in order though. Any suggestions on that?

Oh GAWD the Smell!
01-11-2010, 11:55 PM
Uh...Just don't pay him. If he wants the money, HE will have to get a lawyer.

01-12-2010, 07:38 AM
No one else really touched it yet. Does she 'know' her name is not on the account, or does she presume it is not on the account.

Her running a free credit check on herself would seem to be in order, to see about this card, and to see if she is on anything else, even if she is convinced there is nothing else.

She was once convinced a DIY divorce made perfect sense. Might make more sense to know this go around.

01-12-2010, 12:57 PM
Did she pay the interest on the $4,200.00 debt? Because even if he never used the card, that interest is going to be ongoing. Why would she think she just had to pay the principal?

01-19-2010, 03:23 PM
Her name was definitely never on the account; it's possible to have a card with someone's name on it without actually putting them on the account.

PQ: I didn't mention interest in my previous posts cause I was trying to keep things simple (lol was trying to avoid a huge wall of text!). The whole point of the post was just to get a little clarification on the legalities, mainly to determine if the $4k she's already paid counts for anything/something or if the ex is correct in saying that the FULL original amount is still due.

01-20-2010, 07:38 AM
quit paying if you are not on it, cardholder is 100% liable.

01-20-2010, 09:52 AM
quit paying if you are not on it, cardholder is 100% liable.

Not a lawyer but I would think so, too, since there was no court order or legal agreement.

02-03-2010, 02:43 PM
quit paying if you are not on it, cardholder is 100% liable.

Completely agree. You can be a cardholder (authorized user), but if you never signed anything with your social security number on it, it won't report on your credit.