Going through a separation and divorce is one of the most stressful things that a person can go through. Few people really understand the legalities of a legal separation, however. Because you and your former partner haven’t gone through the divorce process yet, the law considers the assets and debts accused during the marriage as belonging to both of you.
While laws can vary from state to state, most states tend to treat debts that were taken out under both names as joint debt. It should be noted, however, that separation is considered to be a gray area because of the variation in laws. For this reason, many credit card companies and banks will refuse to loan money to someone who legally separated without specifically stating that the debt is only theirs. Taking out joint debt is extremely difficult.
The exception to this is a joint credit card account. Because these lines of credit were opened before the separation, anything charged to the card will be considered joint debt. Both spouses will be liable. For this reason, it’s typically a good idea to freeze any joint credit cards at the time of separation.
In the event that your former spouse racked up more debt during your separation on a joint credit card, it is possible to save your credit card statements and ask the judge to assign this portion of the debt to him or her during the divorce proceedings. Keep in mind, however, that the credit card company will continue to expect minimum payments and interest will accrue on the debt. It’s also important to note that even if the judge assigns the debt to the other party, non-payment can still impact your credit history.