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Ask Dave

Divorce Decree Debacle

Mary Sue thinks that the divorce decree will make her not liable for the credit card debt. Dave explains why that's not so.

QUESTION: Mary Sue and her husband took out a credit card in 1987. They got divorced after that and the divorce decree said she wasn’t responsible for the debt. Their joint credit card debt is $17,000, but Bank of America will settle for $4,000. Her husband has now left the country. Does she have to pay this debt? Dave has some bad news for her.

ANSWER: The divorce court doesn’t have the power to undo contract law. The only person you have recourse against is your ex-husband for not paying the bill. You’ve been liable for that debt all these years. Consider how much money and time you’ll have to spend to get $4,000 from him; you probably won’t get money from him. I would get it in writing that they are willing to settle for this, and it releases you. When you get that letter, you can pay them, but don’t give them electronic access to your checking account because they will clean you out.