Ex has to pay our credit card bill. Should he pay interest, too?


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Dear Credit Card Adviser,
My ex-husband is responsible for the debt on the credit card we had. Our divorce papers say he is responsible for paying $5,500. He is saying he has paid the $5,500, but the card still has a balance due to interest. He says he is not responsible for the interest, just the $5,500 that is on our divorce papers. Is it true that he is not responsible for the interest accrued on the card?
— Maria

Dear Maria,
As you may have already read, whether an ex-spouse is responsible for a credit card debt all comes down to what’s required in the divorce order. If the order specifies that your ex is responsible for the interest, then, yes, you should be able to enforce payment.

If the order doesn’t specify who pays interest, there’s still a chance you can hold him liable for the new charges.

According to Margot Saunders, the attorney with the National Consumer Law Center who helped us out the last time a question like this arose, “It is only reasonable to assume that the court ordered the spouse to repay that amount of the debt in full, which includes everything due on the date of the order.”

If your ex didn’t pay the debt right away and allowed extra interest to accrue, “that is not in compliance with the spirit — if not the express language — of the order,” she says.

To hold your ex-husband accountable for the debt, Saunders recommends contacting your attorney to potentially file a “show cause motion” against him. This motion would require your ex to explain why he is in contempt of the order as written — and will provide clarity as to whether he is responsible for the added charges.

Once again, as a general tip to consumers, these types of issues are why you should refrain from co-signing on a credit card or other loan. One alternative in the future is to add a spouse or relative as an authorized user on your existing credit card account.

This option gives you more control over their activity. For instance, it’s much easier to keep someone off the account if they start racking up a ton of charges on it.

If you can’t get an order for him to pay interest or can’t reach a separate agreement, you’ll have to pay the charges or face a damaged credit score. Be sure to check your credit for free at myBankrate.

Good luck!

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