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Debt.com » Research » 1 in 3 Divorcees Blame Credit Card Debt for Split – Most Say They or Their Ex Hid It

1 in 3 Divorcees Blame Credit Card Debt for Split – Most Say They or Their Ex Hid It


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For the third consecutive year, Debt.com has polled 500 divorcees on how their debt weighed in on their decision to break up. One-third say credit card debt and spending was “a factor in their divorce.”

But debt may not be the sole reason. Just under 7 in 10 of those respondents say they or their spouse hid credit card debt.

For many of them, getting away from the unagreed-upon debt led to even more.

Those who said “credit card debt was a reason for their divorce” took on significantly more debt following their divorce: 22% say they took on $15,000-$20,000 due to breaking up. Only 15% of all respondents said the same.

Key findings

  • 1 in 3 (34%) say credit card and spending was a factor in their divorce. That includes 4 in 10 (41%) Millennials and 1 in 4 (26%) of Gen Xers – 31% are women and 40% are men.
  • More than half (51%) said they took on debt following their divorce. That includes 33% men and 67% women.
  • Nearly 1 in 4 (24%) say they took on between $15,000 and $20,000 worth of debt. Of those respondents, 1 in 3 (35%) are men and 3 in 5 (65%) are women.
  • Over 1 in 4 (28%) respondents said their credit score decreased by more than 50 points as a result of their divorce. More women (64%) than men (36%) had damage to their credit.
  • More than 1 in 3 (37%) now have sole responsibility for a debt they once shared with their partner. That includes 2 in 3 (66%) women and 1 in 3 (34%) men.

Of divorced couples who split over credit card debt, 1 in 4 say they took on $10,000 or more as a result of their divorce.

Of divorced couples who split over credit card debt, 1 in 4 say they took on $10,000 or more as a result of their divorce.

Of divorced couples who split due to credit card debt, nearly 1 in 4 took on $10,000 or more debt as a result of their divorce.

Of divorcees who split over credit card debt, 3 in 5 reported more damage to their credit score.

1 in 4 of Debt.com's 2024 Debt and Divorce survey are located in the South Atlantic region of the United States.
Region States (breakdown defined by the U.S. Census Bureau)
Middle AtlanticNew York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland
PacificCalifornia, Oregon, Washington, Alaska, Hawaii
South AtlanticFlorida, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, West Virginia, District of Columbia
East North CentralIllinois, Indiana, Michigan, Ohio, Wisconsin
West South CentralArkansas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, Texas
MountainArizona, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah, Wyoming
East South CentralAlabama, Kentucky, Mississippi, Tennessee
West North CentralIowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota
New EnglandConnecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Vermont
Click here for full survey results
Were debt or other financial difficulties the primary factors in your divorce
Strongly agree12.02%
Agree 20.23%
Neither agree nor disagree16.98%
Disagree22.90%
Strongly disagree27.86%
What financial difficulty(s) contributed to your divorce?
Shopping12.98%
Going out to eat/drink too often22.71%
Disagreements on big purchases (i.e. cars, appliances, furniture, etc.)56.87%
Vacations 7.44%
Was credit card debt and spending a factor in your divorce?
Yes33.97%
No 66.03%
Did you or your spouse hide credit card debt?
Yes33.59%
No 66.41%
Did you or your spouse hide spending?
Yes53.82%
No46.18%
Did you take on debt following your divorce?
Yes50.76%
No49.24%
How much additional debt did you incur as a result of your divorce?
Less than $1,00041.03%
$1,001-$5,00018.51%
$5,001-$10,00014.50%
$10,001-$15,00011.07%
$15,001-$20,00014.89%
Did you and your spouse share a debt that is now only your responsibility?
Yes37.02%
No62.98%
How much did your credit score change as a result of your divorce?
Decreased by 50 points or less11.45%
Decreased by more than 50 points27.86%
Increased 50 points or less4.20%
Increased by more than 50 points7.44%
My credit score was unaffected23.85%
I don’t know 25.19%
Did you consider separation instead of divorce as a way to save money and avoid the cost of divorce and debt?
Yes25.95%
No74.05%
For full 2023 survey results, click here

Were debt or other financial difficulties the primary factors in your divorce? Percentage of respondents
Strongly agree 15.02%
Agree 24.90%
Neither agree nor disagree 18.63%
Disagree 19.58%
Strongly disagree 21.86%

 

What financial difficulty(s) contributed to your divorce? Percentage of respondents
Shopping 10.41%
Going out to eat/drink too often 14.90%
Vacations 4.08%
Credit card debt 28.98%

 

Did you or your spouse hide credit card debt? Percentage of respondents
Yes 36.12%
No 63.88%

 

Did you or your spouse hide spending? Percentage of respondents
Yes 53.99%
No 46.01%

 

Did you take on debt following your divorce? Percentage of respondents
Yes 58.75%
No 41.25%

 

How much additional debt did you incur as a result of your divorce? Percentage of respondents
Less than $1,000 36.69%
$1,000-$5,000 22.05%
$5,001-$10,000 18.25%
$10,001-$15,000 11.41%
$15,001-$20,000 11.60%

 

Did you and your spouse share a debt that is now your responsibility? Percentage of respondents
Yes 42.78%
No 57.22%

 

How much did your credit score change as a result of your divorce? Percentage of respondents
Decreased by 50 points or less 11.79%
Decreased by more than 50 points 27.76%
Increased 50 points or less 5.70%
Increased by more than 50 points 9.13%
My credit score was unaffected 13.50%
I don’t know 32.13%

 

Who had a higher credit score prior to the divorce? Percentage of respondents
Me 54.94%
My spouse 18.44%
Unknown 26.62%

 

Who had a higher credit score following the divorce? Percentage of respondents
Me 40.68%
My spouse 23.38%
Unknown 35.93%

 

Did you consider separation instead of divorce as a way to save money and avoid the cost of divorce and debt? Percentage of respondents
Yes 29.47%
No 70.53%

For full 2022 survey results, click here

For many survey respondents, their debts reached more than $5,000 – and their credit scores dropped by more than 50 points.

Debt.com and DivorceMag.com partnered to ask Americans how divorce impacts their finances. After surveying more than 500 divorcees, we’ve determined that debt and financial disagreements can certainly lead to unhappiness in marriage – but it’s not why most break their vows.

One-third of divorced couples say financial problems were not a contributing factor to their split. However, nearly two-thirds reported they took on debt after their divorce was finalized.

More than half of survey respondents said their debts reached more than $5,000. And nearly 15 percent said their debts amassed over $25,000.

Taking on more debt meant taking a hit to their credit score. More than 4 in 10 said their divorce sunk their credit by at least 50 points.

  • Decreased 50 points or less: 13%
  • Decreased more than 50 points: 32%
  • Increased 50 points or less: 4%
  • Increased more than 50 points: 6%

“It doesn’t matter how much you earn, couples will fight about money. It doesn’t matter how much you have, divorce will cost you money,” says Debt.com president Don Silvestri. “We already knew this from our seven years of helping Americans get out of debt. But those high numbers were a little surprising – and depressing.”

Most respondents said financial difficulties did not contribute to their divorce

2 in 3 said they took on debt following their divorce

Divorce caused more than half of respondents to take on over $5,000 worth of debt

3 in 10 said their credit score dropped by more than 50 points as a result of their divorce

4 in 10 shared a debt with their former spouse that’s now theirs alone

Were debt or other financial difficulties the primary factors in your divorce? Percentage of respondents
Strongly agree 12.28%
Agree 20.86%
Neither agree nor disagree 14.62%
Disagree 24.95%
Strongly disagree 27.29%

 

Did any financial problems during the pandemic contribute to your divorce? Percentage of respondents
Strongly agree 3.70%
Agree 10.33%
Neither agree nor disagree 10.92%
Disagree 23.00%
Strongly disagree 52.05%

 

Did you take on debt following your divorce? Percentage of respondents
Yes 62.96%
No 37.04%

 

How much additional debt did you incur as a result of your divorce? Percentage of respondents
Less than $1,000 29.24%
$1,000-$5,000 17.35%
$5,001-$10,000 15.79%
$10,001-$15,000 point drop 12.09%
$15,001-$20,000 7.02%
$20,001-$25,000 4.09%
More than $25,000 14.42%

 

Did you and your spouse share a debt that is now your responsibility? Percentage of respondents
Yes 40.94%
No 59.06%

 

How much did your credit score change as a result of your divorce? Percentage of respondents
Decreased 50 points or less 12.87%
Decreased more than 50 points 31.77%
Increased 50 points or less 3.90%
Increased more than 50 points 5.65%
My credit score was unaffected by my divorce 19.69%
I don’t know 26.12%

 

Did you consider separation instead of divorce as a way to avoid incurring debt? Percentage of respondents
Yes 20.47%
No 79.53%

 

Household Income Percentage of respondents
$0-$9,999 6.29%
$10,000-$24,999 point drop 10.02%
$25,000-$49,999 point drop 22.24%
$50,000-$74,999 22.24%
$50,000-$74,999 18.65%
$75,000-$99,999 13.24%
$100,000-$124,999 7.61%
$125,000-$149,999 4.46%
$150,000-$174,999 2.12%
$175,000-$199,999 1.39%
$200,000+ 4.02%
Prefer not to answer 9.95%

Methodology: Debt.com and DivorceMag.com surveyed more than 500 divorced Americans and asked nine questions related to how divorce impacted their finances. People responded from all 50 states and Washington, DC and were aged 18 and above. Responses were collected through SurveyMonkey. The survey was conducted from Jan. 28, 2022 to March 30, 2022. Percentages were rounded up to the nearest whole number and might not total 100 percent.

For full 2020 survey results, click here

Most survey respondents told us that debt and financial difficulties were not a factor in their divorce.

Response Percentage of Respondents
Strongly Disagree 26.01%
Somewhat Disagree 12.12%
Disagree 22.98%
Somewhat Agree 24.24%
Agree 6.44%
Strongly Agree 8.21%

 

All respondents to our survey told us they took on debt following their divorce – and the majority (40%) said it was more than $5,000.

Response Percentage of Respondents
More than $5,000 39.90%
Less than $1,000 29.42%
Between $1,000 and $5,000 30.68%

When asked if they took on sole responsibility for a shared debt following divorce, respondents were near-split. Most respondents (57%) didn’t – but close to half (43%) did.

 

Response Percentage of Respondents
No 56.57%
Yes 43.43%

Most respondents (38%) said their credit score dropped more than 50 points.

Response Percentage of Respondents
Decreased more than 50 points 37.75%
I don’t know 29.67%
My credit score was unaffected by my divorce 16.54%
Decreased 50 points or less 10.35%
Increased more than 50 points 4.04%
Increased 50 points or less 1.64%

Most divorced respondents told us they “never considered separation” rather than filing for divorce.

Response Percentage of Respondents
No 88.01%
Yes 11.99%

Methodology: Debt.com and Moneywise.com surveyed 2,700 Americans through online platform SurveyMonkey between Nov. 1, 2019 and Dec. 29, 2019 – but only sourced data from about 800 Americans who have been through a divorce. Moneywise.com is a personal finance website affiliated with Wise Publishing headquartered in Toronto Canada.

 

Methodology: Debt.com surveyed 526 adults and asked 11 questions about their divorce. People responded from all 50 states and Washington, DC, and were aged 18 and above. Responses were collected through SurveyMonkey. The survey was conducted on January 31, 2024.

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