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A case was recently handed down by the Missouri Court of Appeals, Eastern District (where St. Louis County and surrounding counties are located) that serves to remind us all that the time to make certain that you know the balances on your credit cards is before the divorce is finalized. In the Smith case, the parties entered into a standard separation agreement, approved by the court, that said each party would assume specified debts. Prior to a judgment being entered that adopted that Agreement, the Wife used a credit card to write “convenience” checks for about $30,000 total. Husband was unaware of those debts and sought to challenge the judgment years later on the basis of fraud. His claim of fraud was rejected by the appellate court.

This is why our firm generally includes the approximate balance on any joint credit cards being assumed by our clients in the Separation Agreement and advise them to bring any discrepancy between the balance to our attention as soon as possible, preferably within 30 days of the judgment, which greatly increases the chances of success on a mission to address the issue. Of course, most major credit cards offer a way to get the current balance at any time, and the best practice is to check the balance immediately after signing the agreement and then again 5-7 days after entry of the judgment.

Being proactive about credit card debt is always best!