Posted by Christopher E. Heberg
The emotional aspect of divorce often makes it difficult to focus on the details of what needs to take place. One of the areas that is often overlooked is your credit rating. How can you protect yourself? Consider three tips.
1. Take inventory. Pull your credit report to get an idea of everything that is out there. Be aware that some lines of credit may not be reported to a credit bureau. For example, you may have a credit account with your dentist office or other private service provider. Look through past records to try to identify any creditor you may have overlooked that is not on your credit report.
2. Remove your spouse as an authorized user. Your credit report will note who is an authorized user on an account. Leaving your spouse as an authorized user is dangerous. It gives them the authority to charge, but not necessarily the responsibility for the debt. You can have them removed by simply calling the credit card company. Additionally, it’s just as important for you to be removed as an authorized user on your spouse’s accounts. If your spouse does not pay, that unsettled debt can be reflected on your credit report. If your spouse refuses to do it, call the credit card company yourself. If they will not allow you to remove yourself, contact the credit reporting agency and dispute their including it on your credit report.
3. Separate joint accounts. This can be more difficult. The details of separating joint accounts will vary depending on the divorce settlement. For example, the person who stays in the house may be responsible for paying the mortgage. If this is the case, it would be best to refinance into the responsible person’s name. If it’s not possible to separate a joint account, add conditions to your divorce settlement to protect yourself. For example, if your spouse is going to miss a payment, they must notify you in advance. Be sure to demand an account password so you can monitor the status of the loan online. It may not be fair for you to make the payment, but doing so will protect your credit. Keep track of those instances so you can attempt recover the advanced funds in court at a later time. You may also want to ask the lender to send a copy of the statement to both of you, so you can keep track of any delinquencies.
Lastly, be sure to protect yourself from yourself! It’s not uncommon to incur a lot of credit card debt when transitioning from married life to single life. It’s often difficult for individuals to adjust to the restrictions of just one income, so you should have a realistic post-divorce budget and stick to it.