We get a lot of credit questions here at Credit.com. In this series of posts, I am answering some of the most frequently asked questions we receive.
Q: Our divorce decree says that my ex-wife is supposed to pay off the Visa. (She made most of the charges on it and should pay it.) But she hasn’t and my credit has taken a beating. I’m not happy. Is there anything I can do?
A: It’s not unusual for joint accounts to cause problems long after a marriage is over. Your divorce decree may state that your ex is responsible for paying that credit card, but as far as the credit card issuer is concerned, you are both responsible for the account. After all, it is still legally your joint account.
Find out from your divorce attorney what your options are for getting your ex to keep up with her end of the bargain here. If she can’t or won’t pay the bill on time, you may have to step in and do so to protect your credit, but don’t do that without first consulting with your attorney.
From time to time, I’ve heard from consumers who said they managed to persuade a creditor to remove late payments in this situation. Sometimes they had to agree to pay off the bill, though. (Remember, the creditor can still look to you for payment as long as the account is open and a balance remains. So be prepared for them to ask you to pay the account if she’s currently behind.)
If you do get the card issuer to agree to remove your name from the account in exchange for payment, make sure you get something in writing in case it reappears on your credit reports. Again, there’s nothing that requires the creditor to do this for you, so try to remain calm and polite. You may be ticked off at your spouse, but don’t take it out on them instead. It may take several phone calls to reach someone who will work with you but it’s worth pursuing.
Do you have a credit question? Ask our experts by emailing us at creditexperts@Credit.com. We will answer relevant questions in upcoming posts. (We always remove personal information first to maintain your privacy.)