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Why it's important to keep an eye on credit card debt post-divorce

It's understandable how a person might simultaneously experience both relief and anxiety once the ink on their divorce decree dries. Indeed, they may be relieved that the otherwise emotionally and physically draining process is finally finished, yet remain somewhat uncertain about the prospect of starting an entirely new chapter.

While this uncertainty will naturally abate with the passage of time, financial experts indicate that the newly divorced will nevertheless not want to turn the page completely on their marriage.

Specifically, these financial experts are concerned that debt accumulated on jointly held credit cards during the course of the marriage may become problematic later on.

While a newly divorced spouse may be quick to point out that their divorce decree expressly declares that their former spouse is obligated to pay off this debt and that they are therefore not responsible, this is not actually the case.

The simple reality is that the credit card company is not a party to the divorce, such that in the eyes of the law it is also not bound by the divorce decree.

What this means is that the credit card company can -- and will -- hold both of the spouses responsible for the debt, meaning if the spouse required to make payments under the decree fails to fulfill this obligation, it will show up on the credit reports of both spouses and harm their credit scores equally.

This naturally raises the question as to what spouses can do in these situations to protect themselves.

According to experts, the spouses may consider including the paying off of the account in the terms any settlement reached. Conversely, the spouse not responsible for payments may monitor the credit card account online to ensure payments are being made and, if not, considering contacting their attorney to learn more about their options going forward.