questions & answers
Question: My ex-wife has stopped paying on the car and credit cards agreed upon in the divorce decree. My name is still on those items and I am afraid it is going to effect my credit. What can I do?
Answer: This is complicated issue, and depends greatly on how the court phrased the various responsibilities for debt payment when the original divorce decree was entered. Some divorce decrees require individual parties to remove their ex-spouses names from the original debt by refinancing or closing various accounts. But even that is not always a complete solution, because it still depends on the cooperation of the individual parties to do what they are told to do.
Without actually seeing the paperwork, and reviewing the various debts involved, it is difficult to answer this question or devise a sensible solution. For that reason alone, I strongly recommend that you sit down with a family law attorney, if only for a brief consultation. The lawyer will want to review your divorce decree, a listing of the existing debts, and perhaps even contact the individual creditors to find out the payment history.
I can tell you that Rule 92 of the Arizona Rules of Family Law Procedure does permit an ex-spouse to apply for a civil contempt citation and sanctions against the other ex-spouse for failing to comply with the court order. This may not have the effect of staving off the creditors (unless you can persuade them to wait while you bring the case back to family court), but it would at least have the virtue of serving notice to your ex-spouse that you do not intend to allow her to ignore the judge's decree with impunity.
In other words, you may decide to pay some of these debts up front, just to preserve your good credit, but that does not prevent you from seeking compensation in Family Court from the judge who originally directed her to take care of this.
There are two unfortunate realities for someone in your predicament. First, the creditors are not really interested in the divorce decree, and they will not generally care which one of you was supposed to pay the debt once you and your spouse split up. They were not parties to the divorce, they were not bound by the family court order, and from their perspective, you are both obligated for the debt because you incurred that debt together.
Second, if your ex-wife doesn't have the money to pay these debts, then she doesn't have the money to pay these debts. You should evaluate her financial situation carefully (whether or not you hire a lawyer) before deciding whether to go to all the expense of filing motions and other types of documents in Superior Court. It does no good to win a judgment against her for certain amount of money, if she has no assets from which you can collect that judgment once you win. So, for example, if she rents an apartment, possesses no automobile, financial assets or significant tangible property, and has no regular paycheck from which you can garnish a deduction, then it may not make a whole lot of sense to pay for a lawyer just to chase her around and prove to the court that she is disobedient. I am sure that is a frustrating thing for you to hear, but unfortunately this sort of thing happens fairly often.
My ex-wife has stopped paying on the car and credit cards agreed upon in the divorce decree. My name is still on those items and I am afraid it is going to effect my credit. What can I do?
- Please select your county of residence below.
State Bar of Arizona
Maricopa County Bar
Referral number 602-257-4434
Pima County Bar
Referral number 520-623-4625
National Domestic Violence Hotline
Bankruptcy Court Self Help Center
Certified Legal Document Preparer Program
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