A divorce can have several unexpected consequences on your life. Your credit score is one of them.
Couples focusing on new living arrangements and asset division often neglect their credit scores. Yet, people need good credit most during these times. The divorce itself has no impact on your credit; Mastercard does not care about your marital status. However, taking the wrong actions during a divorce can cause a credit score to suffer.
How Does Divorce Affect Credit Score?
- A married couple undoubtedly has joint debts. During a divorce, it can be easy to forget about that car payment for the vehicle driven by your spouse and usually paid for by him or her, even if your name is on the loan.
- Usually, the court decides which person is responsible for what payment. That sounds nice, but the creditor does not care that your ex-spouse is legally responsible for a credit card debt. It wants its money, and as a co-owner of the card, it will be looking to you for reimbursement. You must understand, non-payment on a joint account can impact your credit score, judge’s decision notwithstanding. Be aware of which cards are in whose name – joint or individual.
- Keep close track of your credit reports and notice any purchases or non-payment of which you were unaware, but which will affect your credit rating.
Should You Close a Joint Credit Card Account?
During a marriage, couples open a joint credit card to give both equal access to credit. Following a divorce, however, both parties are still responsible for making payments, even if the other party did not make or authorize the purchase. And if a former partner declares bankruptcy, you become responsible for the debt. Note, however, that canceling a card and lowering the amount of available credit can lower your credit score. Perhaps opening one in your name only is a practical alternative.
How to Protect Your Credit During A Divorce
The ideal solution is for you and your spouse to pay off all joint debts before the divorce and maintain individual accounts. Even a large debt, such as a mortgage, can be refinanced in the name of one of the spouses only. Selling the assets and using the proceeds of the sale to settle other joint debts is another possibility with joint loans (such as mortgages and auto loans).
The key is to make payments on time, even if your ex-spouse has the court-appointed responsibility. Credit companies expect payment. For your credit score, pay the minimum until the court or credit company resolves the matter.
Consider a Credit Freeze
Divorces can become nasty, and ex-spouses can turn spiteful. It is not unheard of for an angry divorcing spouse to take out credit in the former spouse’s name. To prevent this, apply a credit freeze to your credit report. This prevents anyone, including the spouse, from taking on new, additional credits because creditors will want to see a credit report before extending more credit.
For more information about freezing your credit, you can visit any of the following websites from the three credit agencies:
Even an amicable divorce will change your financial situation as you shift from two incomes to having your own, separate household to manage with less available money.
The first thing that is needed is a budget. A divorce attorney and/or an accountant can help you with a budget that may, at least temporarily, include a slightly lowered lifestyle – those weekly pedicures may have to go until your financial situation improves.
While a judge may order alimony payments, this is the time to update your resume and look for a job that pays you what you are worth. There are many professional resume companies that can highlight your accomplishments and help you get a well-paying job.
The legal process can get difficult, which is why we always recommend that you seek the assistance of counsel; or at least have a consultation. Schedule a consultation with one of our attorneys today to review the issues of your case, the legal options you may have, and certain rights that pertain to your unique situation.
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