Many California spouses incur credit card debt during marriage. However, if the time comes when the couple seeks a divorce, they will have to negotiate and figure out who is responsible for the debt.
Community law in California
Since California works under community law, couples are jointly responsible for any debt they incur during marriage, even if one person put the charges on a credit card without their spouse’s consent. There are exceptions to this, including if the debt was the result of a gambling habit, an affair or irresponsible spending after the couple had announced they were divorcing.
How does the process work?
Once the divorce process begins, the couple will enter the discovery phase. This is when each person provides their lawyer with affidavits of assets and liabilities. From there the lawyers will review those statements to figure out what debt their clients will be responsible for. The parties then negotiate to decide what part each person will pay, pending the approval of the judge. This information will then go into the final divorce decree.
Protecting financial interests
There are several ways to protect financial interests before, during and after divorce. These include:
• Closing joint credit card accounts that have a full-paid balance
• Adding spending limits to authorized users
• Removing authorized users from the credit card account
• Including specific language in the divorce decree that protects the non-liable party
There are cases when creditors still pursue the non-liable party for payment. In that situation, the person can sue their ex-spouse to force them to pay.
Financial planning for life after divorce should begin even before the decision to pursue a divorce is made. This is how soon-to-be exes can protect their financial interests for life post-divorce. A lawyer with family law experience can assist their client during the planning, discovery and negotiation phases of the process.