What happens to our joint credit cards and bank accounts?
In some cases, you can cancel joint credit cards and bank accounts. This may not be wise in your case. Talk to a lawyer first. In a court case for division of property and debts, the court may decide you did not act fairly if you deprived your partner of necessities or credit or you used money when you had no right to.
If you decide to cancel joint credit card or bank accounts, and you cannot get your ex's consent where a creditor or bank needs it, write the creditor or bank a letter. Say:
Send copies of the letter to anyone else authorized to use the account. Keep one for yourself. Keep a record of who got the letter and how you sent it. Stop using the account after your send your request.
The creditor is coming after me for a debt my ex promised to pay.
It does not matter if you divide your debts, or a court divides them for you. A creditor may still be able to collect from either of you. A creditor can collect against whoever promised to pay the debt. If you both have promised, the creditor can require payment from either or both of you. The creditor does not care if you had a particular relationship, did not keep items you bought, or did not get the services or money the creditor provided. Example: Your name is on a credit card. The credit card company can ask you to pay the debt even if the court orders your ex to pay it.
Read Debtor's Rights: Dealing with Collection Agencies and How to Claim Personal Property Exemptions to learn about income and assets you can protect from debt collection.
Can a court order my ex to pay some of the debts?
If your relationship is marriage-like, the court will use the "fair and equitable" standard to divide debts. The court will then order one or both of you to pay each creditor. The court's division does not limit the creditor's rights. (See B, above.)
If a creditor forces you to pay a debt that is your ex's court-ordered responsibility, you can go back to court to get your ex to pay you back. If you already paid a debt before any court order dividing debts, and then the court decides that debt is your ex's responsibility, you should get a judgment for that amount in the court order.
*With a judgment against your ex, you can try to collect from your ex. Talk to a lawyer.
If a creditor contacts you about a debt your ex should pay, mail the creditor a letter and copy of the court order showing your ex is responsible. If you have a low income, you can also send a copy of your budget showing you cannot pay.
Our relationship is probably not marriage-like. How will a court divide our debts?
You will be responsible for any debts in your name only. If a debt is in both names, you will probably be "jointly and severally" liable. The creditor can collect from each of you in any portion it chooses. If you earn more than your ex, they may try to collect only from you.
*The written agreement with the creditor should explain your responsibility.
Do not voluntarily pay your ex's debt. If you do not benefit from paying the debt off, the court may call this a gift. The ex does not have to pay you back unless you can show it would be unjust to let your ex keep the benefit of your payment.