When couples divorce, dividing assets is a big part of the process. However, so is the division of debt. In community property states like Arizona, spouses are equally responsible for debt, both from joint accounts and individual ones. Credit cards often account for a significant portion of that debt.

Most divorce attorneys will advise their clients to extricate themselves from joint bank accounts and credit cards as soon as they begin considering divorce (or believe that their spouse is). This can help protect you if he or she decides to drain your accounts or rack up thousands of dollars in purchases on your credit cards as retribution for whatever wrongs your spouse believes you’ve committed.

However, what about the credit card debt the two of you have accumulated together prior to the break-up? Credit counselors, financial advisors and divorce attorneys generally recommend that spouses pay off the debt on their jointly-owned cards in the divorce or transfer the debt to their new individual cards. This can help prevent collectors from coming after you for debt on joint cards if your spouse doesn’t pay or files for bankruptcy.

If you take all of the proper steps in your divorce to separate yourself from responsibility for your spouse’s credit card debt, that can help minimize the financial burden for you. However, as a newly-separated or divorced person, you’re likely living on less income. Therefore, any residual debts can seriously impact your financial situation.

You may be able to benefit from credit counseling. If that’s not enough, an Arizona bankruptcy attorney can provide guidance on how best to get out from under the debt and move on with your life.

Source: Creditcards.com, “Dividing credit card debt in divorce,” Amy E. Buttell, accessed Jan. 27, 2017