Illinois Divorce Law on Credit Card Debt

By Wayne Thomas

Credits cards are a common way to purchase items when you need them. If you are married, you may not give a second thought to how this debt will be treated in the event that you divorce. Credit cards present some unique issues during property division -- and Illinois, like other states, has specific rules for assigning responsibility between divorcing spouses.

Defining Marital Debts

Debts are allocated between spouses as part of the property division phase of a divorce in Illinois. To qualify for division, the debt must be classified as "marital," which includes most liabilities incurred during the marriage and before the date of separation -- regardless of which spouse's name is on the debt. All other debts are considered "separate" and remain the responsibility of the spouse that incurred them.

Timing of Charges

If a couple opens a joint credit card during marriage, the debt incurred is typically classified as a marital debt. By contrast, if either spouse has a credit card coming into the marriage, the balance on the card would be considered a separate debt. However, complications can arise if purchases are made during the marriage on a card titled solely in one spouse's name. Here, the court will to look to see who benefited from the purchases. If the cardholder spouse benefitted from the purchase alone, the debt likely would be classified as separate. If the family benefited from the purchase, the debt would be considered as marital.

Divorce is never easy, but we can help. Learn More

Division Factors

Any credit card balances classified as marital debt are divided along with other property and debts on the basis of fairness between you and your spouse. It is important to note that this does not necessarily mean the division will be equal, as the court is allowed to consider several factors outlined in state law. These factors include the specific needs of you and your spouse, the length of the marriage, the amount of any spousal support awards and the nature of any custody awards.

Other Issues

Judges have the freedom to order either one or both spouses to take responsibility for a credit card balance. However, Illinois courts are aware of issues that can arise with this type of debt, particularly if only one spouse is listed on the account. By law, the cardholder remains contractually obligated to the credit card company even if the court assigns the debt to the other spouse in the divorce. This in turn could affect the cardholder's credit rating if the other spouse fails to make required payments. To avoid this result, the court may decide to keep the marital debt solely with the cardholder, but then offset the award with a larger share of marital property.

Divorce is never easy, but we can help. Learn More
Florida Laws on Credit Cards & Divorce


Related articles

How Is Marital Debt Divided in a Divorce in Georgia?

Georgia is an equitable distribution state, so one spouse always runs the risk of having more than half the marital debt assigned to him for payment in a divorce. Courts in equitable distribution states are not obligated to divide marital property or debts 50/50. The law gives judges the discretion to distribute debts and assets between divorcing spouses in a way that seems fair. Judges can take several factors into consideration, including the respective incomes of the parties and their ability to pay. This can result in a 60/40 distribution of debt, or even 70/30.

Can You File Bankruptcy on Bills Obtained in a Divorce Settlement?

Sharing the responsibility for paying bills is a fundamental part of most marriages. If a couple divorces, the parties or the court must determine how to properly divide the marital debt and one or both spouses may be interested in eliminating obligations incurred as part of a divorce settlement. However, federal law places specific limitations on the type of marital debts that can be discharged through bankruptcy.

New York Divorce Law: Separate Property

Property division plays an important role in most New York divorces. The process begins with classifying assets owned by a couple as either marital or separate. Certain considerations will factor into this analysis, including the existence of written agreements and the parties' treatment of the property during the marriage. Once the determination is made, all marital property is divided between the parties based on fairness, with separate property remaining with the individual who acquired it.

Get Divorced Online

Related articles

Community Property Laws & Credit Cards

Where you live largely determines how your credit card debt is split in a divorce. As a resident of a community ...

How to Take a Spouse Off a Credit Card Before a Divorce in Arizona

A looming Arizona divorce can present difficult financial tangles, as each spouse prepares to claim a share of the ...

How Is Debt Split in a Divorce in California?

During a divorce, many couples focus on the division of community assets and often don’t realize that marital debt is ...

Divorce Laws and Automobiles

As you go through the divorce process, you and your spouse will work to divide all marital property, including debts, ...

Browse by category
Ready to Begin? GET STARTED