What Happens if Your Ex Doesn't Pay Off Joint Debts After Divorce?


Dividing debt in a Pasadena divorce settlement is usually a last resort option. It is far better to sell assets to pay off debt than to split joint debts between spouses. This is true even if you need to take a loss and sell off significant assets like real estate or vehicles. If the goal of your divorce is to give yourself a fresh start, you don't want to be financially entangled with your ex any longer than is absolutely necessary.

The problem with splitting debt is that your creditors typically don't care about the details of your divorce settlement. If your ex loses his/her job or simply decides he/she no longer cares about paying off the debt, you're still legally liable as long as your name is jointly on the account. If your ex doesn't pay, creditors can come after you and threaten a lawsuit or wage garnishment as long as you're listed as a joint account holder.

Some debts can be refinanced to be in one person's name only. Unfortunately, your creditors aren't legally required to refinance just because you're getting a divorce. If you and/or your ex have poor credit, your creditors might determine that refinancing is too risky for them.

If your ex fails to pay debts that were determined to be his/her responsibility in court, you can petition the court to enforce the terms of your divorce agreement. Your ex must then make a court appearance and explain why he/she has not followed through with the debt repayment. Possible penalties can include fines and/or jail time.

However, if the failure to repay is due to a genuine lack of funds, you're not going to gain much by going back to court. Your best option will simply be to either pay the debt yourself or renegotiate the terms. If you do decide to pay the debt on your own, keep proof of payment and ask for reimbursement from your ex once he/she has a steady income again.

How Can We Help?

Please call our office at (626) 683-8113 or email us at info@PasadenaLawOffice.com if you are in need of legal representation during your divorce. Our Pasadena matrimonial lawyers can handle a variety of concerns, including issues relating to child custody, child support, visitation, spousal support, and the division of marital property.