Marriage is complicated. There are so many things that tie you and your partner together when you are married; assets, insurance, and yes debt. As a married couple your finances in most cases become completely entwined making them difficult to untangle after a divorce. just divorced

The assets are typically handled in your divorce settlement, insurance can be taken care of by a qualified agent and then there's debt. Debt can be tricky to navigate as a divorce settlement can "award" the debt to one or both of you, but if the debt was joint the credit card company won't care-they just want their money. Credit card companies aren't bound by divorce settlements, so they can actually go after you for jointly incurred debt if your former spouse doesn't pay. Yikes!

So what can you do to get rid of joint debt and begin your new "debt free" life?

Here are a few tips to follow when divorce is looming or in the process and joint debt is in the mix.

Eliminate Joint Debt

Financial experts recommend that you exit your marriage with NO joint debt. The ultimate goal is to remove each partner's liability for joint debt. There are several ways you can make this happen.

  • Inventory the debt. The only way to be sure what joint accounts are still "open" is to pull your credit. This is a very important step in ensuring you don't miss anything. Carefully review reports from all three credit bureaus to ensure that each joint account is accounted for.
  • Pay off joint cards together. Develop a plan to pay off any joint debt prior to the dissolution of your marriage. For example each partner is responsible for a debt payment on each of the joint accounts each month.
  • Divide the debt. You can take the joint debt and divide it by transferring a part of the remaining balance to a card that is in your name alone. For example, Mr. & Mrs. Have a joint account with $5000. Mr. transfers $2500 to an individual account he has or pays his $2500. Mrs. does the same with her $2500 and the joint debt is paid off. Be sure to close this account to ensure neither of you is tempted to charge it up again.

Once the debt has been accounted for and divided up now its time to develop a plan for your portion of the joint debt.

Develop a plan

You don't want to be left with a pile of debt joint or otherwise and not have a plan in place to pay it off. Here are a few options when it comes to debt repayment.

  • Use joint savings. If you and your soon to be ex are on good terms you may consider using your joint savings to pay off debts and give each of you a fresh start. If the divorce is a bitter one, or there isn't any savings you will need to find another way to eliminate the joint debt.
  • Consider credit counseling. Starting your new life in debt will be a challenge. By consulting with a credit counseling service you may be able to join either a debt management or debt settlement plan to pay off the debt more quickly and receive the advice and support you need to make it through these tough times.
  • Bankruptcy. Often considered a last resort it may be your only option for eliminating the joint debt you can't afford to pay on your single income. If you are still "legally" married, you should file at the same time so that neither of you gets stuck with joint debt. Be sure to consult with a trusted Bankruptcy attorney and exhaust all of your other options first.

However you decide to handle joint debt be sure to see it through. It is important to continue to monitor your credit reports until the debt is paid off completely or is shown to have been moved to your respective individual accounts. There is nothing worse than being hit with collections for unpaid debt years down the road when you are settled into your new budget, life etc.

Check  out divorce support blogs for more information on navigating divorce.

Did you take the proper steps to ensure joint debt was paid off during your divorce?

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Suzanne CramerSuzanne Cramer   

Suzanne is a certified credit counselor and a Social Media Specialist for CareOne Debt Relief Services. Suzanne writes for Divorce, Debt and Finances and A Straight Talk on Debt. Follow Suzanne on Twitter @SuzanneCramer1  and @AskCareOne where she shares her insights on divorce and managing your finances.