Divorce seems to be consuming your whole life. But bill collectors (Entergy, Cox, AT&T, your mortgage provider, car loan provider, etc.) do not care if you are divorcing.

If there is a mortgage note or car payments or utility bills or credit cards, the bill needs to get paid by someone or bad things happen – like foreclosure, repossession, lawsuits, credit problems, no lights, etc. 

While both parties remain liable for community debts during and after a divorce, knowing who is responsible for what can be an issue.  Legal advice from a Metairie divorce attorney can help you figure out what accounts to pay while your divorce is pending.

So, in many cases, the person who has control or the greatest interest at stake (e.g. the person living in the family home, or driving the car, or with the stellar credit, etc.) should take the initiative and continue paying the debt.

Why should I pay the household bills if I’m not in the house?

Maintaining a good credit score is important. Don’t let yours take a nosedive because you don’t think you should “have to” pay a certain bill. 

As a general rule, if your name is on a bill, you should pay it, to avoid collections or other negative consequences.

It may feel good at the moment to have utilities in the house where your spouse still lives shut off for nonpayment. However, it won’t feel so great when you later apply for a loan and realize that your pettiness cost you your chance for a new house or vehicle. 

Since the community regime is going to be dissolved as of the filing of the divorce petition, if you use your separate property to pay this community debt, you may be entitled to reimbursement for part of the payment once all the property issues are resolved. But that may be a while.  A local Jefferson Parish family law lawyer can help you figure this out!

Do I have to pay the credit card bill if my spouse made all of the charges?

One issue that comes up in almost every divorce is credit card bills.

Many times, one spouse is the primary cardholder and the other is an authorized user on the account. If the authorized user runs up charges, then the primary cardholder can be responsible.

In general, you are responsible for debts in your name. If you are the primary cardholder, it is generally advised to remove the other spouse as an authorized user on your accounts. This will prevent them from making any further charges. 

There is a difference between a “joint credit card account” and an account with an authorized user. If a credit card is in both spouses’ names, a true joint account, the company will hold you both responsible for the debt. It may make sense to close any shared credit card accounts if possible. 

In any case, keep making at least the minimum payments during the divorce process to avoid damaging your credit.

What should I do to make sure my spouse pays the bills they are responsible for?

If you rely on your spouse to pay community bills, you need to file a complaint for post-separation support and equitable distribution. If you haven't filed a complaint for these claims before the divorce is granted you forfeit your right to do so in the future.

In the early stages of divorce, you will have an interim hearing with the court in most cases.  

The purpose of this hearing is to make some determinations about who is going to pay what, and how much, so as to keep the parties in reasonably the same position while the divorce progresses.  

This hearing may result in an order with you either paying or receiving spousal support, child support, or other requirements (like you pay credit card and car loan, and spouse pays house note, utility bills, and insurance) until everything can be addressed.

In the best cases, you and your spouse can reach some agreements on these financial responsibilities and actually uphold the agreement.  Bills get paid, life goes on. 

Can my spouse just stop paying bills?

In the worst cases, no agreements are reached, or even if ordered to pay, one or the other party fails or refuses to honor the agreement or court order.

Of course, your spouse risks ruining their own credit if the bills are in their name, but that doesn't always stop people.

What then? Contempt? That is an option, but it is a long process with additional costs involved. Look – no one said this would be easy.  

In order to save your credit, if a spouse is not paying a bill that your name is on, you may need to pay it and then seek reimbursement.

If you are paying bills during your divorce proceedings, it is incredibly important to document that you have done so. Keep track of the date and amount of every bill that was paid and from which bank account.

For almost everyone, divorce is a time of financial stress and uncertainty. 

If you have any financial questions related to your divorce like who should be paying what bills or what accounts can or should be closed, please give a divorce lawyer at LJB Legal a call at 985-240-9773.

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