Credit and Divorce

Mary and Bill recently divorced. Their divorce decree stated that Bill would pay the balances on their three joint credit card accounts. Months later, after Bill neglected to pay off these accounts, all three creditors contacted Mary for payment. She referred them to the divorce decree, insisting that she was not responsible for the accounts. The creditors correctly stated that they were not parties to the decree and that Mary was still legally responsible for paying off the couple's joint accounts. Mary later found out that the late payments appeared on her credit report.

If you've recently been through a divorce-or are contemplating one-you may want to look closely at issues involving credit. Understanding the different kinds of credit accounts opened during a marriage may help illuminate the potential benefits-and pitfalls-of each.

There are two types of credit accounts: individual and joint. You can permit authorized persons to use the account with either. When you apply for credit-whether a charge card or a mortgage loan-you'll be asked to select one type.

Individual or Joint Account

Individual Account: Your income, assets, and credit history are considered by the creditor. Whether you are married or single, you alone are responsible for paying off the debt. The account will appear on your credit report, and may appear on the credit report of any "authorized" user. However, if you live in a community property state (Arizona, California, Idaho, Louisiana, Nevada, New Mexico, Texas, Washington, or Wisconsin), you and your spouse may be responsible for debts incurred during the marriage, and the individual debts of one spouse may appear on the credit report of the other.

Advantages/Disadvantages: If you're not employed outside the home, work part-time, or have a low-paying job, it may be difficult to demonstrate a strong financial picture without your spouse's income. But if you open an account in your name and are responsible, no one can negatively affect your credit record.

Joint Account: Your income, financial assets, and credit history-and your spouse's-are considerations for a joint account. No matter who handles the household bills, you and your spouse are responsible for seeing that debts are paid. A creditor who reports the credit history of a joint account to credit bureaus must report it in both names (if the account was opened after June 1, 1977).

Advantages/Disadvantages: An application combining the financial resources of two people may present a stronger case to a creditor who is granting a loan or credit card. But because two people applied together for the credit, each is responsible for the debt. This is true even if a divorce decree assigns separate debt obligations to each spouse. Former spouses who run up bills and don't pay them can hurt their ex-partner's credit histories on jointly-held accounts.

Account "Users" If you open an individual account, you may authorize another person to use it. If you name your spouse as the authorized user, a creditor who reports the credit history to a credit bureau must report it in your spouse's name as well as in yours (if the account was opened after June 1, 1977). A creditor also may report the credit history in the name of any other authorized user.

Advantages/Disadvantages: User accounts often are opened for convenience. They benefit people who might not qualify for credit on their own, such as students or homemakers. While these people may use the account, you-not they-are contractually liable for paying the debt.

If You Divorce If you're considering divorce or separation, pay special attention to the status of your credit accounts. If you maintain joint accounts during this time, it's important to make regular payments so your credit record won't suffer. As long as there's an outstanding balance on a joint account, you and your spouse are responsible for it.

If you divorce, you may want to close joint accounts or accounts in which your former spouse was an authorized user. Or ask the creditor to convert these accounts to individual accounts.

By law, a creditor cannot close a joint account because of a change in marital status, but can do so at the request of either spouse. A creditor, however, does not have to change joint accounts to individual accounts. The creditor can require you to reapply for credit on an individual basis and then, based on your new application, extend or deny you credit. In the case of a mortgage or home equity loan, a lender is likely to require refinancing to remove a spouse from the obligation.

By Cindy S. Morus

How to Select a Divorce Lawyer

Selecting a divorce lawyer to handle your family law case is a very important decision. The following are a few important criteria to help in finding the right divorce lawyer.

Experience and Focus

Any divorce lawyer you consider should have substantial experience in handling divorce cases in your location. An experienced divorce lawyer will know the tendencies of the various judges in your jurisdiction and should be able to use this knowledge to your advantage. Additionally, that lawyer should practice primarily in the field of divorce law. Often people will hire a lawyer who practices primarily in some other area, thinking that any lawyer will do. However, divorce law is a very specialized field that requires particular skills and experience in order to have a likelihood of reaching a successful conclusion.

Past Client Testimonials

Perhaps the best way to decide which divorce lawyer to use for your divorce case is to find out what former clients have to say about that lawyer. While divorce is never an enjoyable process, some divorce lawyers have more success at satisfying their clients than others. If you do not know someone who has been a client of that particular divorce lawyer, you should consider asking the lawyer for a list of clients that you can contact who can describe their experience with the lawyer. While client confidentiality is important, any good experienced divorce lawyer should have at least a few former clients who are willing to vouch for him or her.


When a client becomes dissatisfied with a divorce lawyer, one of the most common complaints is that they were unable to communicate with the lawyer. It is very important that your divorce lawyer be accessible and prompt in responding to your phone calls, emails, and requests for meetings. While you can ask the divorce lawyer about their office policy, this is another area where you can best evaluate the divorce lawyer by hearing what former clients have to say.

If a former client of the lawyer tells you that they found it very difficult to contact the attorney, or that the lawyer either did not return calls or respond to emails or would take several days to do so, you should definitely avoid that lawyer. Divorce is an unpleasant and frustrating process under the best of circumstances. If you are unable to reach your divorce attorney, or at least someone on his or her staff, the frustration level can increase exponentially.


When you make your initial appointment with the divorce attorney, you should inquire about a consultation fee. Some lawyers do brief initial consultations for free, although most experienced divorce lawyers will charge between $100.00 and $200.00 as a consultation fee, or will charge their normal hourly rate.

For example, I charge a flat $100.00 consultation fee with no additional hourly charges, regardless of the length of the meeting. Essentially, the consultation fee is to "weed out" those people who are not serious about the possibility of hiring me. Given that my normal hourly rate is $200.00/hour and the usual typical consultation takes about 90 minutes, the charge for my consultation is significantly discounted. Therefore, you shouldn't let a consultation fee scare you away from interviewing a particular lawyer.

During the consultation it is vitally important that you have a candid discussion with the prospective divorce lawyer about fees and what you can expect. Typically, an experienced divorce lawyer will require the payment of a substantial retainer up front, against which that lawyer's hourly rate and expenses will be charged. You should find out what that lawyer's hourly rate is, what the up front retainer will be, whether any portion of the retainer is refundable if it is not exhausted, and how often you can expect to receive invoices that detail their hourly charges and expenses. You also will want to know how detailed the invoices are. Once again, this is another area where you can get excellent information from those people who have been clients of that divorce lawyer.


While all the above issues are important, there is one final question you should ask yourself before hiring a divorce lawyer. Are you comfortable with that lawyer and are you confident in his or her abilities? If the answer is anything other than a resounding "yes," you should keep looking. Your case is too important to entrust to someone who does not inspire your confidence.

By Scott Morgan

Divorce Advice: Getting Divorce Advice From the Right Source

Getting the right type of divorce advice depends on what type of divorce advice you want and what you want to use it for. When looking for divorce advice, it is smart to clearly define what you are seeking the advice for so you can be sure to look in the right places.

Seems simple enough right?

Yes, but...lots of people who are deciding about divorce and seeking divorce advice lump the categories of divorce advice into one, and that's a big mistake. You should seek divorce advice from different types of places for the different types of advice that you need. Certainly there's more types of divorce advice categories, but here's a partial list:

Divorce advice type 1:

Legal advice for getting a divorce when you are sure that you want a divorce, no matter how tough it will be to get that divorce.

When asking for this type of divorce advice while meeting with an attorney, you may be asked if you're certain that you actually do want a divorce?if you do, don't waver, stick to your decision. It makes sense to have a good idea of all of the parts of your life, family and materials, that could be affected or sought after. You want to have your facts, account names, timelines, etc., in mind when meeting with the attorney so that your discussion is maximized.

Divorce advice type 2:

Legal advice for getting a divorce when you are almost sure that you want a divorce, but want to make sure that the financial considerations are in order or that health of your children won't suffer in the long run.

When asking for this type of divorce advice, you may want to consider seeking the advice of an attorney or financial planner for the financial considerations and a counselor experienced in family matters for the impact that a divorce might have on your children. The point is, split the two concerns up so that you get the chance to speak to 2 different people who specialize in each area so that you will get the appropriate divorce advice.

Divorce advice type 3:

Legal advice for getting a divorce in a case that is relatively simple and will be a clean break, no financial or other family considerations to take into account for the divorce.

This is perhaps the easiest type of divorce advice to get because it infers that you have already made the decision from an emotional standpoint and really don't have any other considerations of deep concern. When seeking this type of divorce advice, you most likely have limited financial considerations, a prenuptial agreement, or the situation itself as amenable to everyone and you just need someone to do the paperwork.

Divorce advice type 4:

Legal and/or counseling advice regarding whether or not divorce is right for you from a psychological, emotional and financial perspective.

When asking for this type of divorce advice, you may want to consider seeking the advice of an attorney or financial planner for the financial considerations and a counselor experienced in Clinical Psychology and "personal-life" coaching for the impact that a divorce might have on you. Again, the point is, split the two concerns up so that you get a chance to speak to 2 different people who specialize in each area so that you will get the appropriate divorce advice.

Divorce advice type 5:

Counseling for emotional support when deciding whether or not you really want a divorce or are just unhappy in your marriage due to a marriage problem.

This type of divorce advice is crucial to your happiness because when you're in an emotional state, it is tough to make lucid and rational decisions. And, if you're wrestling with deciding whether or not to get a divorce (purely from an emotional perspective), you should do all you can to make a logical decision because how you approach this decision and the affects afterwards can be long lasting and far reaching. If you're are struggling with finding divorce advice, you may want to talk to friends, counselors, even other family members.

But, my divorce advice to you is, do it yourself.

I'm not saying don't talk with friends, counselors, and possibly family. What I am suggesting is that you reach the final decision of whether to get a divorce on your own, you have to live with it, no one else. The answer is inside you, you just have to get it out in a logical manner.

Whatever type of divorce advice you need, be sure that you're directing your energies in the right direction. If you don't separate the emotional aspects from the legal aspects of divorce advice, you might end up confused and unable to get the most out of any meeting you may have with an attorney or marriage counselor. At the end of the day, you should control your own destiny and make a smart decision based on logic, controlled emotion, and forward thinking.

How To Identify What The Question Should I Get a Divorce? Means To You

Deciding about whether you should get a divorce or not is an agonizing experience to go through. If you are asking yourself "should I get a divorce?", you've been thinking about your relationship's state for a while or an isolated incident (an example is an extramarital affair) that occurred was so terrible, that you want to just chuck it all and start over with a new life!

If you have been asking yourself "should I get a divorce?" for any length of time, you should figure out what is making you feel that way if you haven't already. Take the time to reflect back on why you're leaning towards divorce rather than working out your marriage problem. Once you identify the things that are making you feel like divorce is the right option, make a list of those things.

Once you make that list, go back through each item on the list that led you to asking yourself the question "should I get a divorce?". Look at each item on the list in depth and make certain you really deem those items as valid reasons for wanting a divorce, either in and of themselves or as a part of a common theme of reasons that make up a whole set.

Once you trim the list down to include only truly 'valid reasons', rank each reason in order of importance. Identify 2 reasons that hold the most weight to you and that contributed most to you asking yourself "should I get a divorce?".

After you accomplish this, decide if these reasons seem like things that can be changed for the better or if they are just flat out unrecoverable. Soul search and decide whether or not you are willing to do what it takes to try and fix the problem that is associated with these reasons.

Example: If one of your reasons for thinking about divorce is because your spouse is insanely jealous of you having friendly and/or purely plutonic relationships with members of the opposite sex, decide whether or not you are willing to socialize less with members of the opposite sex (or in a different manner) or do what it takes to ensure that your spouse understands and believes that you truly love him/her. If you aren't willing to do either of those things (or anything else it may take to change the situation), you have some serious long-term thinking to do about whether you really want to stay married.

If you have been asking yourself "should I get a divorce?" due to one isolated incident, you should re-live that isolated incident in your mind and identify why the isolated incident led you to the way that you feel now.

List the top 5 reasons that this incident hurt you to the extent it did (thinking about divorce). Then, think about what you feel the top 5 reasons are that led to the actual incident itself.

This is especially crucial because, even though it may be one isolated incident that caused you to think about divorce as an option, the reasons that led to that isolated incident may have been present for quite a while and need to be dealt with. The point is, just because one isolated incident 'happened', doesn't mean the execution of that incident is the true cause of the problem. Chances are there's much more to it, and finding out what those things are will help you identify the true story.

If you have been asking yourself "do I want a divorce?" and haven't prioritized why you feel that way, you aren't ready for divorce. What you are ready for however, is to go through soul searching to get to the root of the problem.

Extramarital Affair: Should You Get A Divorce Just Because One Of You Had An Extramarital Affair?

Having to deal with an extramarital affair can be a life-changing event, regardless of whether you stay married or not. Inescapable feelings can come over both people who live through an extramarital affair that will never be forgotten by either of them. The person who actually had the extramarital affair can have feelings of guilt, loneliness, confusion and misdirection along with many other feelings. The 'partner' who did not have the extramarital affair can have these feelings as well, but the lack of confidence that can come as a result of the other person having an extramarital affair can be one of the toughest parts to deal with.

The feelings that come as a result of one or both parties having an extramarital affair are natural but can also be extensions of something much deeper. Of course, if someone has an extramarital affair, both people in that marriage will have feelings that will be "surface level" only at first. Arguments can occur, denial may set in, and/or tempers can flare due to the extramarital affair. While these things are only natural and to be expected, if your going to actually survive an extramarital affair, you must look at the deeper issues and get down to the real cause of the affair and what to do about it.

People in marriages don't often look at having extramarital affairs lightly, and they realize most times what affects their actions will have on their marriage. If someone has an extramarital affair and doesn't think that it will have an affect on their marriage, surely they are either in denial or their definition of marriage leans strongly towards the "open" side. For the rest of the married crowd who don't subscribe to an "open" marriage and who have to deal with an extramarital affair, things can get a bit more complex.

Complexity can be interesting no doubt, but it can also add to the confusion of someone having an extramarital affair, especially if the couple or one party in that couple wants to look deeper at the situation and figure out two very important things:

Extramarital Affair Item 1: Why did the extramarital affair happen?

Extramarital Affair Item 2: Does the fact that there was an extramarital affair in the marriage really warrant getting a divorce when both people agree upon the reason that the extramarital affair happened in the first place?

If the couple really wants to save their marriage in spite of the extramarital affair, then finding out why the extramarital affair happened and agreeing on that reason is the first step in the healing process. If you are currently trying to save your marriage and one of you had an extramarital affair, try to limit your pain that you feel and talk things out with your spouse so you can clearly define and agree upon exactly why the extramarital affair took place.

If you cannot do this, chances are you will never get over the extramarital affair and your marriage most likely won't survive...or at least you won't have a healthy marriage after the extramarital affair.

After you have defined and agreed upon the reason that the extramarital affair took place, you must decide whether that reasons (or reasons) warrant actually going through a painful divorce. At this point you have 2 choices...either decide in your own or decide with your spouse. The latter is optimal for a variety of reasons but the main reason is that you may actually save your marriage if you decide together. Deciding together whether the real reason an extramarital affair took place indicates that you're both really reaching out for something, something you most likely didn't have prior to the extramarital affair...togetherness.

So, should you get a divorce just because one of you had an extramarital affair?

No, not necessarily. Depending on how collaborative you can be with your spouse, how 'detective-like' you can act, and how much soul searching you can do, you may just become stronger together because of an extramarital affair. It may sound odd, but that's the truth.

Of course, it is entirely possible (and probable) that if you both don't define and agree on why the extramarital affair took place and work to address that reason or reasons, your marriage won't ever be healthy again and you'll never be able to healthily survive the extramarital affair.

Reasons For Divorce; What Constitutes Viable Reasons For Thinking About Or Wanting A Divorce?

According to the Center for Disease Control's National Vital Statistics Report of 2002, 50% of first marriages ended in divorce and 60% of remarriages end in divorce. But, the Center for Disease Control also found that 96% of Americans express a personal desire for marriage, and almost three-quarters of Americans believe marriage is a life long commitment. I imagine that there are somewhat similar statistics worldwide.

With these kinds of statistics, its easy to see how complex it can be when people think they want a divorce, they have difficulty identifying how a truly viable divorce reason might be defined. Wanting happiness through marriage and wrestling with what may seem an inevitable outcome (a divorce), can be emotionally and mentally challenging. After all, it is human nature to want to feel nurtured and secure, no matter where you live!

So, if you're thinking about getting a divorce, what are truly valid reasons for actually getting a divorce?

Each government has different laws defining the difference between 'fault' and 'no-fault' divorce reasons that have enough merit that allow for the divorce to be granted. While it makes sense for you to keep this in mind when deciding whether or not to get a divorce because there may be financial considerations to think of, you should first focus on defining your own emotional or "personal" divorce reasons, regardless of what the local governing body says.

If you ask 100 people how they define viable reasons for wanting a divorce, you'll most likely get 100 different answers because they'll answer you from their perspective, not yours. Sure, there may be similarities to the way you feel in some of those answers about 'real' divorce reasons, you may even agree with some. But, the real answers to this question can only come from you. You have to figure out what reason or reasons would be viable in your mind in order to actually go through your decision about getting a divorce or staying married.

Some reasons that people give for getting a divorce, or wanting a divorce, are purely selfish and have no substance. An example of a reason for wanting a divorce that has no substance is not liking the fact that your spouse has constant unfounded jealousy. There is a deeper problem that exists here, and in the case of this example, it could be that the spouse who constantly feels jealousy has a confidence problem or some sort of 'fear of loss'. Whatever the case, the divorce reason in this example clearly isn't viable and should relatively easy to fix.

Often times when people give 'surface' or flimsy reasons for wanting a divorce, they really have much deeper feelings about something and they're just using the shallow divorce reason as an avoidance of some kind. Or, they give these 'foundation-less' reasons for wanting a divorce because they actually aren't aware that there are other deeper rooted reasons that are the cause of the way they feel now.

Common reasons that cause people to think about or want to get a divorce:

*Couple has conflicting personal beliefs
*Couple's marital satisfaction decreases
*Cruel treatment
*Spousal Indignities
*Irretrievable Breakdown of some kind

Of course, you should add your own reasons to the list for wanting a divorce, better yet, make your own list of what may be 'valid' reasons. Solid divorce reasons for wanting or going through a divorce usually come from some sort of occurrence, behavioral pattern, and/or change in the viewpoint of the marriage itself.

In order to really make a smart divorce decision, you should first list the reasons that you have for wanting a divorce, then examine those divorce reasons for true viability. Then come back to it that list in a day or so. Chances are you will be able to scratch a few of those reasons for wanting a divorce off the list because they were identified purely from an emotional viewpoint rather than logic.

If you are thinking about getting a divorce, and haven't clearly identified what reasons you have for feeling the way you do, you'll be doing yourself a 'dis-service' if you act without carefully examining the viability each designated divorce reason. Everyone has their own reasons for wanting a divorce, make sure that you are certain that your reasons are truthfully viable to you before you act on them.

Surviving Divorce: What To Think About To Ensure Surviving Divorce

Surviving divorce can be a valid fear if you're contemplating getting a divorce. In order to ensure surviving divorce, you should first understand that your divorce decision shouldn't be taken lightly. Ensuring that you'll be surviving divorce can be comforting and can influence your path as you consider your reasons for divorce and take the emotional plunge into actually going through with it.

Its tough enough to think about how your immediate life will be impacted by getting a divorce let alone thinking about divorce from an aspect of "the aftermath" of divorce. You may be considering a variety of things in the short term including living arrangements, spouse's schedules, attorneys, kids, property, etc. Its tough to plan so you can really ensure that you'll be surviving divorce once its finally over with.

Surviving divorce, just like deciding to divorce, is about separating emotion from logic and making sure you think about the past, present and future. Of course, how you plan for surviving divorce, will differ from others in some respects, but there are some common themes to think about that should ensure you will be successful surviving divorce.

The most common things to think about when you want to be successful surviving divorce are self-evident and basic, but highly important:

Surviving Divorce Concept 1: Reflect on the past to make sure you can eliminate potential regret.

Make sure that you take the time to reflect on the past and remember the reasons that got you to this state of mind. One thing you absolutely must avoid is going through a divorce and regretting your decision. Evaluate, in detail, your reasons for divorce and confirm to yourself yet again that divorce is the best course of action. This will help eliminate regret...and regret can be a large factor in determining your chance of surviving divorce.

Surviving Divorce Concept 2: Admit to yourself that, no matter how your situation got to this breaking point of wanting divorce, that you had a hand in it, and plan to improve yourself.

Even if you know your present spouse is not a good fit for you, be smart enough to know that you shouldn't waste the opportunity that you have right now to improve yourself, for your own good in the future. At a time like this when emotions are running high, there tends to be a lot of soul searching going on, and that's a good thing if you want to ensure that you've got a solid chance of surviving divorce. Realize that you need to improve for you, this will only help you in the future. Remember, it takes two to tango!

Surviving Divorce Concept 3: Remember that your happiness and plan for surviving divorce should include evaluating and establishing a certain level of self-confidence. Having self confidence is absolutely critical to surviving divorce because without it, fear usually will win out and your situation will not improve. Even if you get divorced but you don't evaluate your own level of self confidence in the hopes of improving it, you may be in for a rough time after divorce. If you want a sure-fire way to feel good about surviving divorce, do yourself a favor and get your self-confidence in line.

If your overall confidence and desire to start over with your love life support making a change, you're off to a good start in making a smart decision about whether to divorce or not.

Surviving Divorce Concept 4: Get your finances in a row and understand that your life will change most likely from a monetary perspective.

This is a major portion of the surviving divorce equation, especially for women in divorce. A lot of time, women in divorce situations have to deal with finance issues and they fear going out on their own because they've had financial support previously. Still, this concept is not gender specific and can resonate with anyone because, one some level, your life will change financially as a result of divorce...that's a guarantee. In order to make sure your chance at surviving divorce is high, you need to be willing to trade potential financial loss to get a divorce. If you're willing to do this, maybe you're ready to really take the big step.

Surviving Divorce Concept 5: Understand the true value of using "projection" to ensure surviving divorce.

This is a terrific exercise to go through when you're faced with a divorce decision and want to ensure you've got a great chance of surviving divorce. "Projection" simply means looking to the future and actually imagining what your life will be like once you're divorced. And, if you're smart, you'll see multiple scenarios of what your life will become after divorce and you'll be able to pin down which factors lead to each one of those scenarios. Then, choose the scenario you'd like to actually live, and take the necessary steps needed to implement those factors. This one of the most important practices to ensure that you're chances of surviving divorce are high.

Surviving divorce is a difficult thing but it can easily be accomplished if you plan, reflect, think, and execute based on your own goals and needs.

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