My ex is ruining my credit and forcing me into bankruptcy

Divorce Attorney Angela FoyQuestion:

My ex is behind on the mortgage, credit card payments and money owed to me. All of this is ruining my credit since my ex is supposed to be handling it per the divorce decree. I don’t have money to get another lawyer to fight all of this. What can I do? Should I just file Chapter 7 bankruptcy and call it a day?




I do not practice bankruptcy law, so I cannot advise you on whether you should or should not file Chapter 7 bankruptcy.  However, you do have options in family court, whether you chose to proceed on your own or with an attorney.  If your ex-husband was ordered to make payments and he has failed to make them, you can enforce the order by filing a contempt motion. This motion could address support payments he was ordered to make or payments pursuant to your property division.  I do not practice in your jurisdiction, so I can only speak in generalities.

Contempt of court is the intentional disobedience of an order of the court. An order that requires specific conduct or payments can be enforced by contempt.  Most likely, your final judgment had some language that (1) each party assigned a debt shall be fully responsible for that obligation and shall not make any demands upon the other party concerning that debt; and (2) any party who suffers a loss because of a failure of the other party to pay an assigned debt may enforce that obligation by a motion for contempt of court.

Since creditors are not bound by your divorce judgment, each party may remain liable to creditors for all marital debts.  It is then up to you to seek reimbursement, via a contempt motion, if you had to pay the creditors on his behalf.

The court then has discretion to enter an order to ensure compliance with its prior order.  Typically, the court will order sanctions, and depending on the issues, this typically includes fines and could include jail time.  The court then may also offer purge conditions, usually substantial compliance with the original order, as a way to avoid the sanctions.

In many jurisdictions, if you prevail on the contempt motion, the cost of your attorneys’ fees, if you have one, or your costs in pursuing the motion may also be awarded as a remedy.  Although the court may not be able to make an order immediately changing your credit, the court could order him to pay you a sum of money it deems sufficient to compensate you for your loss and the injury he caused by his non-payment.

What you do not explain is the reason he is not paying anything.  In order to be found in contempt, the court has to find that the person had the ability pay, but still refused.  It is the intentional disobedience that often is the difficult burden to prove.  If he has lost his job, his income has substantially decreased through no fault of his own, or for some other reasonable reason he does not have the money to make the payments, then the court may not be able to find him in contempt.  However, the court may still make orders, if you request them in your motion, either modifying the judgment or other order to ensure compliance.  For example, if he is unemployed, the court may order a job search that he must report on.  Alternatively, the court may be able to modify the property division and award an asset that was previously awarded to him now to you to compensate you for your losses.

Your chances of success depend on the specifics of you case, the nature of the payments he failed to make, his financial circumstances, and the specific rules in your jurisdiction.  I do not practice in Florida, so I cannot inform you as to the state’s specific laws.  Cordell & Cordell has attorneys that are licensed and located in Florida, and they would be happy to discuss your case with you.


Angela Foy is an Associate Attorney in the Milwaukee, Wisc., office of Cordell & Cordell P.C. where her primary practice is exclusively in the area of domestic relations. Ms. Foy is licensed to practice in the state of Wisconsin, the U.S. District Court, and the Eastern District of Wisconsin. 

 Ms. Foy received her Bachelor’s and Master’s Degrees from the University of Notre Dame. She then continued on to receive her Juris Doctor from Marquette University.

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One comment on “My ex is ruining my credit and forcing me into bankruptcy

    My wife is currently dealing with some serious issues with her ex boyfriend. They were living together for many years and eventually purchased a condo. About 2 years after the purchase, she wanted to split up. Unfortunately, she could not afford to move out while paying her half of the mortgage, so they lived together, she on the couch, he in the bedroom. Things were almost civil, however she wanted out as soon as possible. Eventually she decided to leave him and that’s when we met. She was staying with friends, paying her share of the mortgage and after about a year of dating, she moved in with me and she continued to pay to him, via check, half of all payments associated with mortgage, condo fees and taxes. When it came time for the 5 year mortgage to be renewed, she insisted that he either agree to sell the property, buy out her share, she buy out his share or if necessary, sign another term mortgage, with a different agreement in terms of how much she should be contributing to the expenses, as he has full use and enjoyment of the property. He refused to discuss anything, insisting that she sign another 5 year term without any agreement other than she pay half of all expenses. We sought out legal advice and hired a lawyer to deal the issue. Over the last 20 months, he’s taken her checks to him, cashed them and without her knowledge, over 2 months period, took the funds and did not pay anything towards the mortgage, condo fees, etc. He forged her signature on a check from her personal line of credit and cashed the check. He stopped paying the mortgage all together and refused to pay a thing, wihtout leaving the condo. He sent therating emails that he would force her into bankruptcy and is succeeding mightily.

    He then, withou her knowledge, while we wait for our court date, took out a loan on his half of the condo of 40,000 and did not make any payments, which eventually was in default and a lien or legal hypotheque has been put on the condo. Also, before this, 2 other liens were put onto the condo, one for the condo fees, which he didn’t pay for over 2 years and 1 for some debts he developed from his business. Total liens is approximately 50,000.

    My wife has paid the mortgage every week for the last 2 years, all on her own, however every so often has missed a payment and is now 10 week behind in her payments. The bank is now threatening to forclose, 1 month before the court date with superior court.

    We suspect he has just declared personal bankruptcy. What can she do? This must have some criminal elements to this. There must be something she can do to save her credit rating, save all that she’s invested (close to 40,000) in the last 3 years. Is there any advice that you can offer? Any suggestion? Our lawyer is currently trying to get the 40k lien revoked and is also preparing for the court date, but it might be too late. We’ve been trying to get this into court so that a decision can be made since December and next month it will finally take place, however before this time, she is likely to have the condo forclosed from the bank. Any help or suggestions would be appreciated.

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