Married couples often use credit cards for many different reasons. Sometimes, they simply desire financial flexibility and use credit cards to make purchases or pay bills in between paychecks. Other times, it might be rewards programs that motivate people to sign up for a specific credit card. Getting cash back or credit toward travel purchases can prove financially lucrative in some scenarios.
While many married couples rely on credit cards to make their finances more manageable, those same financial tools can become a stumbling block during divorce proceedings. The following are some of the ways that credit cards can create challenges during a divorce.
The sudden loss of available credit
One of the biggest concerns people may have as they prepare for divorce proceedings is a lack of access to their financial resources. It is common practice to close or freeze shared lines of credit in the early stages of divorce as a way to prevent misconduct. Unfortunately, especially if someone did not anticipate their spouse filing for divorce, they could find themselves in a scenario in which they do not have the resources they need to buy groceries. A lack of access to revolving lines of credit can be a major challenge in the early days of a divorce.
Disagreements about what debts are marital
Credit card balances can be part of the marital estate. Obviously, accounts held jointly by both spouses are the responsibility of them both when they divorce. Even accounts opened by just one spouse could be part of the marital estate if someone accrued that during the marriage for the purpose of supporting the marital household. It is common for people to disagree about how much of the debt is part of the marital estate and also about how they divide the financial responsibility for those accounts when they divorce.
Conflicts about rewards
As previously mentioned, the rewards offered by different credit card loyalty programs can be substantial. In some cases, they may be worth thousands of dollars. Spouses may fight over who receives those rewards or benefits just like they argue over other marital property.
Those who understand how credit cards can complicate divorce proceedings may be in a better position to secure a reasonable outcome after they file. Depending on one’s debt-related circumstances, properly addressing credit cards can be as important as setting priorities for the assets that someone wants to keep during a divorce.