Much to your relief, the court granted the final decree of divorce. It was a long tedious fight to end the marriage, but you had a good attorney and a fantastic mediator who helped you and your ex-spouse split the sheets and decide what debts each of you will pay. No one went away completely happy, but the divorce is done and you feel like you can move on. In the back of your mind though, you are wondering if that irresponsible narcissist you divorced is actually going to pay the credit card bills the decree says they must. It was a joint credit card, but your ex used it to pay for that “business trip” which was really an affair. Why should you have to pay for that?
All seems to go well, but about a year later on Memorial Day sometime around 1:00 pm, you hear a knock at the door. It appears to be a police officer. You answer the door and the officer asks your name. Then the officer hands you some papers and says “congratulations—you’ve been sued!” With a horror-stricken face, you read the citation and you realize that the credit card company is suing you because that awful psychopath you were once married to didn’t pay the damn credit card. How can the credit card sue you when the court ordered your ex to pay the bill?
You call your divorce lawyer who tells you this shocking truth! The court order does not end your agreement as a joint account holder with the credit card company. You are still responsible for paying the creditor and you have to sue your ex to recover. How can this be? There is a court order!
The answer is that the credit card company is not a party to the divorce and the court has no power to order the credit card company to amend their contract with you and your ex to enable recovery from only one of you. The agreement that your ex will pay the credit card is an agreement only between you and your ex and the credit card company is not bound by that agreement.
So, what should you do now? The first thing you really need to do is to look at the citation and determine the court where the credit card company filed the lawsuit against you. If the credit card company sued you in a Justice of the Peace, then you have a much shorter time to respond. If the suit is filed in a District Court or a County Court at Law, you have a little more time but you need to be sure to answer the suit to avoid a default judgment against you. It is extremely important that you seek legal advice from an attorney.
For someone who is reading this article contemplating a divorce or going through the divorce process in Courts now, it is important that you discuss all community debts with your attorney. If community debts are not paid in full prior to the final decree, your attorney should work with you and your spouse’s counsel to negotiate fair solutions anticipating the breach, especially if your spouse is a poor financial manager.
If you are facing debt collection suits because your ex failed to honor the final decree of divorce, an attorney at Winborne LaFleur PC can help. Visit our website at www.winlaf.com to schedule your initial consultation.
Joseph E. LaFleur
Attorney at Law