When people divorce, they not only have to figure out the finer details of living their lives separately, but they will also have to figure out their now-individual finances. Keep in mind, getting divorced won’t affect your credit directly (marital status doesn’t play a role in determining your credit scores) but there are some indirect effects of divorce that can affect your scores.
If you’re in this situation, here are some things to consider.
Find out Where your Personal Credit Currently stands
As you try to get a handle on everything that’s changing in your life, it’s important to not only know where your credit currently stands but also to monitor it as you start separating your shared accounts (more on that in a minute). A good first step is to get copies of your current credit reports from the two main credit reporting agencies – Equifax (Veda) and Dun & Bradstreet and read over each of these carefully, looking for any errors or problems. Make sure you review each report, as they may each contain different information.
Separate Shared Accounts if possible
If you have shared accounts, it’s a good idea to consider closing them as part of your separation. To do so, you’ll want to contact your financial institutions and close or separate all shared accounts, whether it’s a bank account, credit card, car loan or mortgage.
If you don’t, you and your former spouse will continue to be tied together financially. And if an ex-spouse runs up credit card balances and fails to pay or falls behind on a mortgage that still has your name on it, the black marks will show up on both of your credit reports.
Figure Out Payment Plans
It may also be a good idea to refinance joint loans, such as car or home loans, as part of your separation. One spouse may opt to buy out the other’s share. Or, you may agree to sell the car or home, pay off the loan and split any remaining cash. It may take some time to refinance a home loan or to sell a house, so in the meantime it’s a good idea to set up an online account for the home loan that you both can access if you are both responsible for paying on it. However, even if you aren’t, it’s a good idea to both have access. It’s likely better to step in and pay a mortgage for a couple of months, if a former spouse is unable to pay, than to have to deal with the damage to your credit.
Focus on Your Personal Credit
Once you separate your credit from your former spouse’s, it’s important to build a credit history in your own name. Using a solo credit card account to pay for some routine monthly expenses and paying the bill in full each month is a good way to get started. Once you’ve closed and/or separated all joint accounts, you may decide to get a credit card re-issued to you from the same financial institutions you were using before, just in your name only.
Communication is key
If open communication is possible, it is best to openly discuss your credit responsibilities with your ex-partner moving forward. However, if communication has broken down it is imperative to act to protect yourself. Let any creditor providers who have your name on their credit contracts know that you are currently experiencing financial difficulty because you are unable to negotiate who is making payments with your ex.
If you move out of the family home, make sure you tell all creditor providers who have your name on their credit contracts your new address, email and contact numbers. It is your responsibility to let each credit provider know these details so they can contact you. It is also imperative to receive all notices about your account, including notice of an impending default. Knowledge is power, so if you know where your account stands, you can negotiate with your credit providers to give you time to pay, or a payment holiday, until you get things back on track.