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Topics addressed on March 2, 2011:
Divorce decree does not remove contractual responsibility for debt
My ex-husband took over a credit card with my name on it in the divorce, and it was also stated as such in our divorce decree. He has quit paying it, and it has been charged off. How can I get that off of my reports as I no longer was responsible for it after the divorce, which took place in August of 2009?
Unfortunately, you have raised one of the most common misunderstandings about divorce decrees and shared debts.
The divorce decree is an agreement you and your ex-spouse have with the court. It simply states who has agreed to take responsibility for paying existing debts. The divorce decree does not legally change the contracts you have with your lenders.
In order to change the contract, you and your ex-spouse will need to speak directly with the lender. The lender must agree to change the contract, removing you from responsibility for the debt. Because the debt is delinquent, the lender is unlikely to do so.
Because the account is joint, you share equal responsibility for the debt. Because it is accurately reported, the debt will not be removed from our credit report unless the lender agrees to change your contract.
Your best option may be to pay the debt in full, if you can and seek recourse in collecting the debt from your ex-spouse. It will then be updated to show it has been paid. Doing so will minimize the damage, and it will eventually be deleted.
Thanks for asking.
- The "Ask Experian" team