Wolf: Let's say a single mom still shares a credit card with her ex. What should she do?
Irby: Ideally, she would want her ex to transfer his portion of any joint balances onto his own credit card. That way, everyone is paying for their own debt.
Wolf: What about leaving both names on the account, and agreeing to pay part of the amount due? Is that ever advisable?
Irby: No. If you’ve made an agreement with your ex to split the debt payments on accounts that include your name, and your ex misses a payment, it’s going to hurt your credit. If the ex fails to pay all together, the creditors and collectors will come after you. Not even a divorce decree can change the terms of a joint credit card agreement. In the credit card issuer’s eyes, you’re just as much responsible for post-divorce accounts as before.
Wolf: What about situations when a couple's divorce decree mandates that one individual must pay off the joint credit card debt, but that person fails to do it?
Irby: You can always file contempt of court papers against him/her, but in the meantime, your credit score suffers. So I suggest paying off the debt to save your credit. If you can’t afford to pay the debt, at least make minimum payments to keep a positive payment history on your credit report.
Wolf: What about other accounts, such as utilities and cell phones?
Irby: The safest thing to do, if you have a service in your ex’s name, is to turn off the account and reestablish service in your name.
Irby, LaToya. Email interview. 24 Oct. 2008.