You are finally divorced.  The drama is over and you’re ready to get on with your life, drama free.  As part of the deal, your ex was ordered to pay off certain debts that were originally taken out in both of your names.  For example a credit card, car loan, or even a home mortgage.  Unfortunately, your ex stopped making the payments and now they are coming after YOU for the money.  So much for being “done” with that whole mess, but the question becomes…….what do you do now?

Even though the judge ordered your ex to pay the bill, the judge has no authority to change the underlying contract you and your ex entered into when you took on the debt.  This means that even though your ex was ordered to make the payments as part of your divorce, the companies that loaned you both the money can still come after you alone for the payments.   Additionally, regardless of who fails to make the payments, it will affect your credit scores equally.

So, back to what can you do now?  Every situation is different, but here are the most common options. 

  1. You can make the payments yourself, then sue your ex in conciliation court for a judgment equal to the amount you paid, plus the cost of having to sue him/her.  This can be a hollow victory because now you have to collect the money.  That can be expensive and close to impossible if your ex has no wages to garnish or property to seize and sell. 
  2. If the debt was for something awarded to your ex, you could go back into divorce court and ask the judge to change the final order so that you get the item instead.  However, this is extremely difficult because judges don’t like to change their orders and the attorney’s fees will likely be quite high.  
  3. You could go back into divorce court and ask the judge to find your ex in contempt of court for not paying the debt.  Once again costing you money and probably not really fixing the problem.

Bottom line?  If you don’t think your ex is going to make the court ordered payments… make sure you are awarded the property or it is sold and the debt paid.  If it’s credit card debt, find some other asset to sell and pay it off.  Work with your attorney to do whatever you can to protect yourself from this possibility so that you can actually enjoy that drama free life you are so looking forward to.