Legal Question in Family Law in California

I got divorced over a year ago and when we went to court we split the finances in half i took most of the old debt and she took a few . Now im being sued to pay off a credit bill in which the courts determined was her bill . Do I have to continue paying this bill even thoe on our divorce pappers it says thats her responsibility ? ? please help

Asked on 12/31/09, 9:31 am

2 Answers from Attorneys

Cosmo Taormina Law Offices of Cosmo Taormina

No. What you have to do is talk with someone at the credit card company with some authority to make a decision. You will have to document that the debt is her legal responsibility (in other words, show them the court order) and take the position that you are no longer legally responsible for the debt.

The credit card company will likely say, "The debt is your responsibility anyway, nah nah nah!" Your response must be to request a copy of the signed credit card application to see who signed the application and when (i.e. when was the date of your separation? That date acts as dividing point of the community estate - your debts are yours, hers are hers).

If you are on it, then you have an uphill battle. In spite of a court order (remember that the credit card company was not a party to the divorce and likely did not have notice of the proceeding) you may be held liable for the debt. If and when you get to this point, get an attorney to help you out.

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Answered on 1/05/10, 12:05 pm

Timothy McCormick Libris Solutions - Dispute Resolution Services

Mr. Taormina is right, but I find his answer confusing so let me simplify it. If the account was opened after the date of separation, you are not liable for the debt. If you provide the creditor with proof of a judgment showing the date of separation, they cannot legally try to collect from you, and would probably be in violation of the state and federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Acts if they try.

HOWEVER, if the debt was allocated in the divorce judgment, I doubt it was a post-separation debt. If the account was opened during the marrigage, it does not matter who signed the application, it is a community debt and all community assets can be used to satisfy it. Assuming this is the situation you are in, and the judgment ordered her to pay that debt, and she has stopped paying, you need to go back to Family Court on an order to show cause why she should not be held in contempt of court for failure to pay as ordered. As between you and the creditor, though, you're going to have to pay unless you can hold thme off long enough to get relief in the Family Court, and then ask the Family Court to order her to reimburse you.

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Answered on 1/05/10, 9:41 pm

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