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Changing Account Information After Divorce

By Lisa M. Schaffer, Esq. | Last updated on

Do you remember with great anticipation getting ready to tie the knot? There were all those tasks that needed to be done, like getting a copy of the marriage certificate, contacting the Social Security Office about changing your name, changing your name with the DMV, opening up joint credit cards, and getting both names on the property deed of your new forever home? Well, after a divorce, you have a similar laundry list of things to do. And perhaps the most important is changing account information.

Cancel Accounts, Not Just the Cards

You and your ex-spouse may have had many joint accounts, and now that you are divorced, it's important for you to not just have your ex cancel their card, but you both should cancel those accounts.

For instance, if your joint credit card had a balance, and the divorce decree states that your ex-spouse must pay that balance and cancel his or her card, that may not be enough to protect your interest. The credit card company extended credit to both of you, and both of you are still liable for the debt on that account. The credit card company is under no duty to remove your name from the account, regardless of the divorce decree stating the entire credit card debt belongs to your ex. If your ex-spouse doesn't pay the debt, you will be held responsible by the credit card company, and if you don't pay, you will be sent to a collection agency and your credit score subsequently tarnished for seven years.

These days, there are numerous credit card companies that provide for 12 to 18 months of interest free credit when transferring an existing balance. It would behoove you to have your ex transfer the debt to a new account, and then cancel the once-joint account.

Close All Accounts, Not Just Credit

Though credit card accounts are most obvious, it is important to cancel all joint accounts, such as checking and savings accounts and insurance policies. Though tempting to merely remove the other person's name from the account, and carry on solo with the existing account, it is actually better to cancel the joint account and start fresh, for the same reasons as the joint credit card account.

To merely remove your name, or your ex-spouse's name, from an account can be a very specific, complicated process, and may be more difficult and risky than starting anew. Your ex may have old checks, or may find an unsuspecting teller to draw funds from what was wants a joint account. And if your ex's name is still on your insurance policy, you could be held liable for your ex's accidents. Wouldn't that add insult to injury? To avoid any such issues, cancel the joint account, and start a solo account.

Financial uncoupling can be a complicated process. If you run into issues, contact a local divorce attorney. Divorce can be a difficult process, and sometimes it takes all you have just to cross the finish line. But don't leave yourself exposed just because you want to be done with the whole ordeal. A legal adviser can help prioritize, and even manage, these tasks. If you feel you need help, contact a local divorce attorney today. Your future self will thank you for it!

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