Know your rights
If you're simply an authorized user on an account, the lender should agree to take your name off the account, Ulzheimer says. As an authorized user you are not liable for the debt. If your ex is the account holder, you may have to ask him or her to request the change, though.
f you're a co-signer or the account is held jointly, though, things may not be that easy. (See the advice below on what to do if that's the case.) And if a former spouse's individual account pops up in your credit report, dispute it with the bureaus. This may be a credit mix-up or even intentional fraud on part of your ex.
2. Refinance all joint debts
If you have joint debt — whether it's credit cards, auto loans or a mortgage — each spouse should refinance the debts they'll be responsible for as soon as possible, says Ulzheimer. That means closing all joint credit cards and transferring the balance to a new card in your name, for example, and refinancing the mortgage or auto loan.
Problem is, that's often easier said than done. With auto loans, for example, the spouse who's supposed to pay it off may find the vehicle has depreciated so much that the balance owed is more than what it's worth. (This is what the industry calls "upside down" on the loan.) With mortgages, one spouse alone may not have the income or required credit score to refinance in their name alone. If that's the case, Ulzheimer recommends, consider selling the property and splitting the proceeds, if any. Better yet, use these proceeds to pay off other joint debts.
3. Pay the debt off
If you've been married a long time, chances are you've accumulated assets: property, stock holdings or even retirement accounts. If you're unable to refinance your debts in your individual names, consider using those assets to pay the debt off. But be sure to discuss the financial and tax-related consequences with your accountant or financial advisor. (Selling a house that has appreciated too much, for example, may generate a tax bill.
Monitor the accounts
If refinancing or paying off the debts isn't possible, make sure you monitor the accounts.