Is it possible to discharge part ofa credit card balance if only one of theaccount holdersis filing for bankruptcy and the other is not?

UPDATED: Jun 19, 2011

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Is it possible to discharge part ofa credit card balance if only one of theaccount holdersis filing for bankruptcy and the other is not?

My husband is unemployed and has poor credit. He wants to file bankruptcy for credit card and other debts. There are 2 credit cards in both my name and his. I was wondering if my husband filed bankruptcy solely in his name, can1/2 of the credit card debt (his portion only) be discharged? I have good credit so I don’t want to file under my name, just his.  I would pay my half and the other half would go into the bankruptcy filing.

Asked on June 19, 2011 under Bankruptcy Law, New Jersey


M.D., Member, California and New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 11 years ago | Contributor

I'm afraid that it doesn't work like that. Joint account holders are both "jointly and severally liable". This means that if one cannot pay (or no longer has the legal obligation to pay, such as via a bankruptcy), then the other holder is fully liable for repaying the balance on the debt. You options here are to: pay the debt off; try to enter into a settlement arrangement whereby the credit card company will accept partial payment and then close the account; or file for bankruptcy (either in your name alone or with your husband).  With the last 2 options your credit will be affected. With a settlement a negative notation will appear on your credit report for 7 years and is considered in a slightly more favorable light than a bankruptcy filing. Also, a bankruptcy will remain on your report for up to 10 years.

However, are you sure that you are joint account holders? If you are just an authorized user, then things are different. Since you never signed the credit agreement are not legally responsible for the debt. Yet becoming an authorized user on an account makes your credit score just as vulnerable as the account holder's.

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