Dear Opening Credits,
My girlfriend Joyce and I were supposed to get married November 23, 2014. Instead, she left me for her native country of Taiwan and all I have now are the bills. She put her custom wedding dress on my credit card and that was $3,600. I bought her a ruby and diamond ring in a French setting, exactly what she wanted. I could not afford it but bought it for her anyway because that is what she wanted. Now I owe the Jewelry Exchange $9,000 and counting. Joyce did not return the ring, so I can't even return or sell it. I am in a lot of debt all because of her. I feel she owes me at least the price of the ring and dress. The rest I will put on myself for being a chump. What can I do now? -- Jimmy
How awful and how I wish I could give you great news! I can't, though. I'm afraid that you're accountable for the big bills that your ex has left you with. You see, when you approved the transactions, you also agreed to take responsibility for the debt. Not just the balance, but the payments and associated finance costs as well.
Let's look at each individually. First there's the wedding gown. You allowed Joyce to pay for it with your credit card. As there was no fraud, you can't dispute the charge with the issuer.
Now, if you and Joyce had established an agreement that she was to pay you for the dress, you could stand a chance at forcing the issue legally -- if she were still in the country, that is. Without her presence, not much can be done. The only recourse would be if you have (or can get) possession of the garment. While it may have been specially fitted for her figure, perhaps another woman with her body type would like a bargain. Put it up for sale on sites like Craigslist or eBay. You won't recoup the full cost, but even a few hundred dollars can put some cash toward the debts.
And then there's the ring. Etiquette dictates that it be returned to the person who purchased it in the event that the wedding is called off. It's not just manners, in most states it's the law. Engagement rings are "conditional" gifts, given on the expectation that there will be a marriage. Since that won't happen, you can take her to court because she's not following through with the promise. Again, however, Joyce is not in the U.S. This is not a case for Interpol, so unless she returns to these shores, it will be hard to force her to pay or return the item.
Worse, I checked the store's credit card information and the APR is 29.9 percent. Unless you pay off the balance quickly, you'll be assessed expensive finance fees. Even if you were to pay it off in a year, around $1,500 would be added to the purchase price. If you can pay it in full now, do, but if that's not possible, consider a balance transfer on another card that has a better interest rate. There will probably be a small transfer fee (typically 3 percent), but if the rate is much lower you'll still come out ahead. Or, less behind, rather.
Essentially, you have two basic, yet starkly different, choices: pay what you owe or don't. I can understand why you'd want to run away from it, but if you do, know that there will be consequences. The creditors can run after you, then sue you for the debt.
Sure, you may turn around and discharge the balances in a Chapter 7 bankruptcy (as long as you're eligible), but that's a dramatic decision that has its own associated problems. The notation will be on your credit report for 10 years and will have a significant impact on future lending opportunities. Chapter 13 may be a better option. With it, you can pay through the courts, interest is suspended, and the balance that remains after the three-to-five-year repayment term expires may be forgiven.
Try to be happy that you dodged an even more costly bullet. If Joyce is the money-hogging girl she sure seems to be, it's better that she's long gone and far away.
See related: Is sharing your credit card ever OK?