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Are Spouses Required to Enroll Together?

Understanding how cosigners and authorized users impact your debt management program.

I’m married, and my husband and I both use credit cards… some that we share and some we have separately. The debt on the cards I have is around $35,000 and I want to consolidate with a debt management program. But I don’t want to force my husband to join with me and freeze his accounts too. So is it possible to enroll with just my credit cards or is my husband also required to enroll with me?

Asheley L. in Harrisburg, PA

Spouses and debt management programs

As you learned from the video, the main question that decides whether your spouse needs to enroll in a debt management program with you is who actually holds the accounts. There are essentially four different ways your accounts can be set up with your spouse:

You each hold accounts separately 

You have your credit cards, your spouse has his or her credit cards and you each manage the accounts and pay the bills on your own. In this case, your accounts would be included and your spouse’s accounts wouldn’t.

You and your spouse are cosigners 

This means you applied for the credit card together and you both signed the loan agreement that you would be responsible for the debt. For these accounts, both of you would have to enroll in the program together.

You hold the account, but your spouse is an authorized user 

In this case, you could include the account in a debt management program and the account would be frozen so neither of you could use it. However, your spouse would not be required to enroll in the program with you.

Your spouse holds the account and you’re an authorized user 

This account would not be included in a debt management program that you sign up for because it’s technically not your debt – i.e. you’re not responsible to pay it back. If you want to have this debt on the program, you would have to enroll together.

What happens in debt management when you have a mix of accounts?

Couple enrolls together in a debt management program

There is one issue that can complicate things when it comes to which cards that you have to include in the program. Bear in mind that by law you are not required to include every credit card you hold in a debt management program when you enroll. It’s recommended to include all of your debts, but in some cases, participants choose to leave a card off.

However, while no law prohibits the practice, in general banks and credit issuers will require you to enroll all of the debts you hold with them. So if you include one ABC card, then ABC Bank will require you to include all ABC accounts you’re on in order to agree to your enrollment in the program.

This may impact whether or not your spouse has to enroll in the program with you if you are cosigners on an account and you have another credit card from that same issuer just in your name. If you choose to include the individual account when you enroll, then you may also be required to include the cosigned account – in which case your spouse would have to enroll with you.

If you have questions about credit counseling and debt management programs, just ask us!

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