Spouse Credit Card Fraud May be Settled in Court

Who pays for spouse fraud in the event of separation or divorce or should you find you married a person who is addicted to shopping? Financial discussions are uncomfortable for many of us.

Thus, it’s easier to avoid worries about past spending behavior than to confront potential problems. When we marry we often add the name of our spouse as an authorized user of our credit cards.

If you add your spouse as a user of your credit accounts there is no problem as long as you see the bills monthly and know how the accounts are being used. If your new spouse is overspending it may cause a financial problem but is not fraud.

What is Spouse Fraud?

When a couple is divorcing they must list their assets and their liabilities in order for a court to make decisions on how assets are divided and who is responsible for charge accounts and bills accumulated during the marriage.

The husband or wife may remove their partner as an authorized user of a credit card or may find they need to open a new credit card to protect their own credit from misuse.

There are many anecdotal stories of spouses who go on shopping sprees just before a divorce is finalized but, in fact, courts usually see through this ploy and resolve the issue fairly.

Of more concern is a spouse who applies for credit using your name and your credit rating without your knowledge. It is a simple matter to take one of the credit offers so frequently received through the postal system, fill it out listing a second authorized user and then send it off for approval.

The problem today is that applications can now be completed online. Thus, the necessity for mailing an application with a signature is no longer a factor. The increased used of smart cards will only increase the ability of a spouse to use credit in a fraudulent manner.

Will You Have to Pay?

If you listed your partner as an authorized user on your credit cards, you are liable for the amount they add to your debt. However, if the card was obtained without your knowledge the laws do provide protection from fraud.

The problem is pursuing the fraudulent transaction and the costs involved. If your spouse obtains a credit card without your knowledge and defaults on the payments you may not know about the problem until you are denied for credit yourself.

Only then might you find your credit rating has been damaged by the spending habits and lack of financial responsibility of your husband or wife. If you are still married to this person, proving your case can be extremely difficult.

One common method of credit card fraud is for a spouse to use credit in your name after a divorce is finalized. Your former spouse has your personal information and knows your creditworthiness.

Thus, obtaining credit cards in your name may not be difficult. You will not be held liable for such abuse in the end and yet it may take a full court to provide relief.

Preventing Spouse Fraud

There is no substitute for honesty when you marry. If you know your new spouse spends frequently on material goods or has had problems in the past with his or her own credit rating, there are ways to protect yourself.

Instead of authorizing your partner as a user of your credit cards, you might consider helping them get their own accounts. If credit rating is a problem, you can finance a secured credit card for your new spouse.

This provides the opportunity for your partner to improve credit rating while also protects you from overuse or abuse of accounts in your name.

Before filing for divorce, remove your spouse as an authorized user of your credit cards. If you are concerned about the spouse obtaining credit cards in your name without your knowledge you should monitor your credit files closing to be aware of any applications made in your name.

This scrutiny is one of the most effective tools you have to protect your credit rating and prevent fraud.

If your spouse was a co-applicant on your credit application, close those accounts and open new credit card accounts in your name only.

You can also request your credit lenders to require identification for each credit purchase. This will flag every transaction made to the credit card in theory but relies on the merchant to follow through in requesting the ID.


Spouse fraud has increased in recent years. The reliance on use of credit for daily purchases is the main reason for the increase. Laws will protect you but the cost of pursuing the problem through the courts for resolution is high.

The best protection is to know the potential of your partner to resort to spouse fraud and to keep accounts separate if the risk is there.