It's also important to inventory your wallet and make sure all joint credit cards are canceled during the divorce process.The consequences of going into your newly single life with jointly held debt are potentially painful: Should your ex file for bankruptcy or just not pay what he or she is supposed to pay, your creditors can go after you for the full amount of the debt, plus interest and penalties.You can include provisions in the divorce agreement to force your ex to pay up, but going back to court is expensive and time-consuming.

Once the parties are separated, debt incurred on credit cards is the responsibility of the spouse who made the purchases charged on the card.

"You need to keep good records of your own charges after this date, so you can prove what's yours and what's not," says Brette Sember, an attorney and author of "The Divorce Organizer and Planner." The moment of "separation" depends on the state.

In some states there is no legal separation; you are separated the day you begin living apart. Your options There are several options for handling joint credit card debt.

If not, get help from a mediator or a financial planner, which is cheaper than an attorney." The basics Debt incurred during a marriage is generally the joint responsibility of both parties, as long as both are co-signers on the credit cards, says Bill Glassner, a financial planner with Glassner Carlton Financial Planning in Cedar Knolls, N. "However, if the credit card is in one spouse's name but the other is just an additional cardholder, that spouse isn't responsible.

" One exception is community property states, where both are responsible, even for debt incurred by one partner.

States with community laws are Arizona, California, Idaho, Louisiana, Nevada, New Mexico, Texas, Washington and Wisconsin.

Alaska is an "opt-in" community property state, in which spouses may agree to be jointly responsible for all debts.

You can divorce your spouse, but unless you take extra steps to protect yourself, ditching debt from jointly held cards is more difficult.

Credit card companies aren't bound by divorce decrees, so they can go after you for jointly incurred debt if your former spouse doesn't pay.

This is why divorce attorneys, financial planners and credit counselors recommend that you leave your marriage with no joint debt.

By either paying off the joint cards together or dividing up the debt on joint cards and transferring it to cards in each partner's name, the goal is to remove your liability for your partner's debts.