Impact of property and debt division on credit

As a part of the property settlement in a Massachusetts divorce, the debts the couple have will also be divided in the divorce decree. When a debt is allocated to a spouse who fails to pay or pays late, the credit of the other spouse, if the debt was one that was held jointly, may be negatively impacted despite the order.

Creditors are not parties to divorce actions, and as such, they can still hold anyone listed on an account liable for its balance. This can cause a problem in the event the spouse that is supposed to repay the debt according to the property settlement fails to do so. His or her late payments or non-payment can be reported on the other spouse’s credit report, and the company may initiate collection actions against either or both spouses.

One option a spouse has in the event his or her ex fails to pay a debt that was required to be paid under the property division order is to file a motion for contempt with the family law court having jurisdiction over the divorce action. The court may then take steps to enforce its orders.

When people are getting divorced, it may be a good idea to try to get their names off of any jointly held accounts, including debts for which they will not be responsible under the property settlement order. The marital property will include the debts incurred during the marriage, and those debts should be expected to be divided. Setting deadlines to pay off balances for certain jointly held debts may be one option. People who have complex property division issues in their pending divorces along with a significant amount of joint marital debt may want to seek the advice of an attorney.

Source: FindLaw, “Credit and divorce, accessed on Feb. 2, 2015

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