What happens with credit card debt during a divorce in New Mexico?

 

New Mexico is considered a community property state, which means all debt (and assets) accrued during the marriage between both parties is communal. When getting married both parties sign off saying they agree to this. Oftentimes when getting married, people will join their bank accounts for multiple reasons. If there is a jointly owned credit card account or bank account, then that means both parties are reliable for the debt accumulated. However, because of New Mexico community property laws, the debts and assets associated with your accounts are considered community property regardless of whether you’re on the accounts or not.  A divorce final decree is a court document that is a final judgment from the divorce court and that will state the agreement of the owed debt. If your spouse refuses to pay their share of the debt, then the court can enforce a fine or even jail time. 

 

 Exceptions to Community Debt

 

The few exceptions to community debt are Tax Liabilities, Gambling, and Student Loans. If your spouse is running up credit card debt even after the court has ordered them to cease, then you can file for a legal separation or a divorce to protect yourself from debt collectors coming after you and your credit. The next step would be to make sure you are not seen as liable for the debt. Call credit card debt collectors and other creditors and alert them that you are not responsible for the debt owed. This is not a full-proof solution because debt collectors are not associated with the divorce trial or the court. Creditors rely on the community law to go after a spouse if the other spouse is unresponsive or uncooperative with them. Another exception to community debt is separate property. Separate property is assets that were either given to or inherited by one person during the time of being married, it can also be a property that was owned previous to the marriage. Separate property remains in the ownership of that person and can not usually be divided. 

Wasted Marital Assets

Although the community property law can seem unfair, the courts do take into consideration wasteful spending. If your spouse has spent money on gambling addictions, given money to another person without your consent/ knowledge, or disposes of money, that is considered “wasting marital assets”. The judge takes into consideration all of these details and has the ability to grant you more property in place of compensation or have you only owe a portion of the debt instead of half. Work with a New Mexico attorney to come up with a settlement agreement about wasted assets.

Protecting your finances before the divorce 

 

If the dividing of debt seems like a process you do not want to deal with, here are some steps you can take before you file for divorce. 

 
  • Implementing spending limits

 
  • Taking an unauthorized user off of a credit card account

 

If the credit card account is jointly-owned then it becomes a little more difficult to close the account. This process requires you and your spouse to close it together. If you are unable to pay off the remaining balance here is one option,

 
  • Ask to transfer the balance to a card in one person's name. 

If you need help with a credit card debt, mortgage, splitting assets, negotiating an agreement, maximizing your settlement, or all of the above in a family law case, our experienced

Albuquerque attorneys are just a call away. Call Genus Law today for a $30.00 consultation to discuss concerns, options, and legal advice. 505-317-4455

 

 

Anthony Spratley
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Experienced Divorce, Child Custody, and Child Support Lawyer Serving Albuquerque and Beyond