Getting a divorce is already a very emotional time and worrying about your financial situation adds another layer of difficulty. What you need to understand keep in mind that the simple act of getting a divorce does not affect your credit score. Being single or married is not a scoring factor the credit bureaus look at; however, there are certain events that may occur both during and after the divorce that can impact a good credit score. Let’s take a look at what can affect the score and how you can protect yourself.
Does divorce affect your credit score?
The actual act of divorce does not impact your FICO score but there are other elements that will come into play that can ultimately impact the credit report and score. During a divorce you will go through a split in finances, your normal automatic bill pay can be disrupted, the closing of joint accounts, the removal of authorized user accounts, and so forth will be the factors that affect the scores.
Now, everyone’s situation is different, but it is really important to have a plan and hopefully, you and your spouse are on good enough terms to work it out prior to issues getting out of hand.
How do I separate my credit after divorce?
If you can, it is important to establish a plan to work together both before and during the divorce proceedings in making the transition to single life easier both financially and emotionally. Below are a few tips on what you can do with your soon-to-be Ex-Spouse to achieve that goal.
Establish a plan – Sit down together, if feasible, and go over all the debts you hold jointly, whether it be credit cards, mortgages, auto loans, personal loans, joint banking accounts, and so on. Work out a fair plan to separate each person’s contribution towards those accounts. This will ultimately bring to light who should be responsible for paying each individual account.
Close accounts – Typically closing accounts will be one of the factors that do affect the credit score, but in a divorce situation, it is probably a good idea. If you can, try paying off the jointly held credit cards and removing your name from authorized user accounts.
Set your limits – Ideally, the responsible thing to do once you have established guidelines regarding joint accounts is to stop using them. It is not uncommon to hear stories of how a spouse has run up a credit card, either because they needed to financially or out of spite for their ex. Don’t do this as it will affect not only your credit score but could have other ramifications depending on the stipulation in the divorce decree. In a divorce, you want to achieve as much calm as possible. Don’t run up debt on each other if you do not have the means to pay it back
Can I open a credit card during a Divorce?
Yes, of course, you can but not always wise. Depending on the situation, you may not want to take on new debt until you have settled the terms of what your actual income will be post-divorce. If you feel you are able to juggle the old debt and new debt, you will have to make sure to inform the court and your soon to be Ex about the new account through what they call a “Financial Declaration”. You should always check with your attorney prior to doing anything financially that could affect the case.
Who is responsible for credit card debt in divorce
When both you and your ex are joint holders of a credit card account, you made an agreement with that creditor to pay off the loan and a divorce decree does not change that. Most consumers think that the divorce decree gets them out of the debt, a creditor does not see it that way nor do they recognize a divorce decree.
If you made yourself a co-signer or joint holder, you are responsible for the debt even though the court stipulates your ex is responsible for paying on that account. The only real way to rid yourself of the debt and lessen the potential of negative marks occurring on your credit report is to have the EX-Spouse responsible for the debt payments and close the credit card in full.
If your ex-spouse does not hold up the end of the bargain to pay back the creditor as the decree stipulates, you will want to talk to your attorney about what options you have for them violating the divorce Decree. If you are only an authorized user, you can easily be removed from the credit card and off the credit report without any obligation to pay it back unless stipulated in the divorce decree.
Can you remove a mortgage after a divorce?
If the Mortgage is jointly held, you are both responsible for the mortgage payment in the eyes of the lien holder no matter what the divorce decree stipulates, just like with a credit card. In the case of the mortgage, it would be beneficial to agree to sell the house, that way you are both free from the debt and can move on.
If you are still tied to the property, the loan will continue to report on the credit report making it harder if not impossible to purchase another home. If the home is awarded to the Ex-spouse, try to get an agreement to have them refinance it out of your name as soon as possible to avoid not only it affecting your credit for any missed payments, but so you can move on and purchase your own home at a later date.
How to protect your credit after a divorce
Now that you are through your divorce and you’re ready to attack the single life, it is important to be mindful that there are still some things that can affect the credit score even after the divorce is final. Below are a few examples of how to protect your credit after a divorce.
- Close any paid joint accounts – You do not want to risk your Ex-spouse driving up the balance on a joint account that has been paid off.
- Monitor all accounts that the Ex-spouse is responsible for paying. Set payment alerts and be proactive in paying on the accounts should the ex-spouse not be able to. You will want to preserve your credit the best that you can and avoid any late payments.
- Keep your mailing address up to date with all the creditors so you continue to get statements.
- Consider putting a credit freeze on your credit reports when you are not actively using your credit.
- Change passwords for any websites that your spouse may have had access to previously and that contain any vital or personal information.
Lastly, if possible, try and keep open lines of communication open with your ex-spouse especially when there are accounts that are still being paid and you are a joint user.
Credit Repair after Divorce
Hopefully, you do not need to read this section but we all know things do happen and divorce doesn’t always go as smoothly as it should. Sadly, in a good amount of cases, divorce had an impact on the credit, whether it be from late payments on accounts your ex-spouse was responsible for or you simply need to rebuild your credit due to closing accounts that you held jointly.
Below are a few steps to help you get back on track and realize that fresh start.
Review your credit report at www.annualcreditreport.com for any late payments. You can send a goodwill letter to the creditor with an explanation of why that late payment occurred. You’d be surprised to see that some will forgive that late payment.
Open a credit card – If your credit mix was affected but you still have a good credit history, you can get a credit card opened in your name to help rebuild. If your credit was significantly impacted by the divorce you may have to start with a secured credit card. Maybe even consider hiring a professional credit repair agency Just be sure to use it wisely and make on-time payments. If you use the secured credit card in a good manner, the creditor will in most cases do an account review and convert the account to an unsecured credit card and refund your deposit.
Add an authorized user – Consider asking a family member to be added to the credit card as an authorized user if they have a good credit history.
Be Consistent with your payments – Make on-time payments with all your credit obligations. Late payments can set up back significantly and will quickly reverse any progress you have made.
Monitor your credit – This should be a high priority for credit repair after a divorce. Monitoring keeps you up to date on your credit progress and alerts you of any new potential negatives, new accounts, and any new inquiries you may not have authorized.
If your credit situation has gone beyond simple little fixes and you need more assistance or advice, we are here to help.