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Understanding the Difference Between Joint Credit Card Holders and Authorized Users in Divorce

Posted by Jason C. Tuchman | Apr 08, 2024

Divorce brings several financial challenges, and one area of concern for many couples is how to handle credit card accounts. When two people share one credit card account, there are two distinct types of account holders: joint credit card holders and authorized users. Each has its implications, especially when navigating divorce proceedings. This post explores the critical differences between these roles and their implications in divorce:

Joint Credit Card Holders

When spouses open a credit card account together, they become joint cardholders. As joint holders, both individuals are equally responsible for the debt incurred on the account. In the event of divorce, joint credit card accounts can present significant challenges, as both parties remain liable for any outstanding balances, regardless of the divorce decree. This can potentially lead to financial risks if not managed effectively.

Implications in Divorce:

  1. Shared Responsibility: Even if the divorce decree assigns responsibility for joint debts to one party, creditors can still hold both spouses accountable for the debt.
  2. Credit Score Impact: Failure to manage joint credit card debt effectively can negatively impact both parties' credit scores. Late payments or defaults on joint accounts can reflect poorly on each spouse's credit report.
  3. Division of Debt: During divorce proceedings in New Jersey, joint credit card debt is subject to equitable distribution laws, where debts are divided fairly but not necessarily equally. This means that each spouse may still be responsible for a portion of the debt, regardless of who incurred it.

Authorized Users

Authorized users are individuals who are permitted to use a credit card account but are not legally responsible for the debt. Unlike joint credit card holders, authorized users do not have the same level of financial liability for the account. They can make purchases using the card, but the primary account holder bears sole responsibility for repayment.

Implications in Divorce:

  1. Limited Liability: Authorized users are not financially liable for the debt on the credit card account. Therefore, in divorce proceedings, they are typically not responsible for repaying any outstanding balances on the account.
  2. Credit Score Protection: Unlike joint holders, authorized users are not directly impacted by the primary account holder's credit behavior. Late payments or defaults on the account do not affect the authorized user's credit score.
  3. Access to Credit: Divorcing spouses may remove authorized users from credit card accounts to prevent future financial entanglements. This can help protect the authorized user's credit and prevent potential disputes over charges made post-divorce.


Understanding the distinction between joint credit card holders and authorized users is crucial for navigating credit card issues during divorce. While joint holders share equal responsibility for debt, authorized users have limited liability and are not legally obligated to repay the debt. When facing divorce, it's essential to carefully assess the status of credit card accounts and take proactive steps to protect your financial interests. Consulting with a knowledgeable attorney and financial advisor can provide valuable guidance in navigating the complexities of dividing assets and liabilities during divorce. Their expertise can offer reassurance and help you make informed decisions. By understanding your rights and responsibilities, you can minimize financial risks and pave the way for a smoother transition to post-divorce financial independence.

About the Author

Jason C. Tuchman

Jason C. Tuchman is a Member of the firm who specializes in assisting families with divorce and family law matters.

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