Divorce or a breakup with a live-in partner can be one of the most vulnerable times in life — including when it comes to your credit score and online identity. Here’s how you can protect your credit during divorce and how to repair after:
- Know your credit score and numbers
- Understand how debt is divided in divorce
- Open new accounts in your name
- Get rid of shared accounts
- Contact your lenders
- Stay diligent about your finances
More questions about improving your credit after divorce? These are 3 frequently asked questions:
- Why is it so important to make your credit score a priority if you’re going to divorce?
- Does getting divorced ruin your credit?
- How do I fix my credit after divorce?
1. Know your credit score and numbers
If you don’t already know it, get clear about your credit score and report. Pull your credit history right away.
Understand which accounts are in your name, which are in your partner’s, and how much is owed. You may discover accounts you did not know about.
You may also get a wake-up call about how involved you actually were (or were not) in the family finances.
2. Understand how debt is divided in divorce
Talk to a lawyer or otherwise research how property, assets and debts are divided in a breakup or divorce. You may be legally protected from credit card, medical student and other debt your partner took on — or maybe responsible.
3. Open new accounts in your name
If you don’t already have a checking account and credit card that are in your name, and your name only, go to your local bank branch and do that today.
Deposit paychecks into these accounts, and start charging on the new card — as well as paying it monthly before the due date (set up auto payments to make this easy).
This build credit fast if you have none, or can quickly improve your score if it is low.
4. Get rid of shared accounts
Close joint accounts. Also, remove your ex from any of your accounts for which he or she is an authorized user, and ask your name be removed from their accounts if you are an authorized user there.
If both your names are on a checking or savings account, then both of you can take out all the money.
Likewise, if you share a credit card, line of credit (like a home equity loan) or personal loan, your partner can max out the debt without your approval, and you could be legally responsible for it.
Also, if your partner promises to make timely payments, but does not, that could affect your credit score as well.
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5. Contact your lenders
For accounts on which both you and your partners’ name appear, officially notify lenders, banks and credit cards of your divorce.
Send a certified letter with a copy of the divorce decree, ask that they provide a current account statement and tell them that you do not intend to be held liable for any debt accumulated after the date of the letter.
Request the account be put on inactive status so no new additional charges may be added, and that once the balance is paid in full, the account is to be closed completely.
6. Stay diligent about your finances
One of the most common-sense — and also tedious ways — to protect your credit — is to stay on top of all finances like a hawk.
Regardless of what your soon-to-be ex-promises, or what a separation or divorce decree requires, take responsibility for paying bills on time each month. Your credit score will be affected if they are not, and that will cost you.
Get all statements sent directly to you each month. Open them all. Set up automatic payments. Create a budget that you can stick to, easily.
Create a financial plan for both the short- and long-terms. While you may need to repay debt and build a savings cushion now, set your sights on big goals, too. This can include starting a business, going back to school, buying a house or condo, and investing for retirement.
FAQs about credit and divorce
Why is it so important to make your credit score a priority if you’re going to divorce?
Divorce is usually very stressful, and even if you are glad to be splitting up, there are a lot of details they have to be taken care of. This means that it’s easy for bills to slip through the cracks. One late payment can cause an otherwise excellent credit score to drop by 50, 75 points or more. So it is important to try to make sure that bills are paid on time.
In addition, after divorce you will often need good credit to rent or buy a new place to live or get utility services without a deposit. You may decide to hunt for a better paying job or start a small business, both of which may involve credit checks. And let's face it: if your credit does take a nosedive, it's not going to be fun having the reminder of that time in your life coming back to haunt you haunt you several years later when you’re filling out applications for credit.
Related: How to repair your credit
Credit scores are one of the most critical finances pieces of recovering financially from a divorce. Credit scores are also one of the most overlooked pieces of post-divorce, as I've found by communicating with thousands of my dear blog readers.
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Does getting divorced ruin your credit?
The act of divorce does not hurt your credit. However, the cost of attorneys, affording two homes instead of one, and other expenses related to the divorce or separation process often set back people financially — which can lead to debt and credit problems.
How do I fix my credit after divorce?
The rules for credit repair are the same, except that after divorce make sure that you keep an eye on your credit score and report to ensure that your ex does not steal your identity and accrue debt in your name, maintain your own accounts, and focus on living within your means, building your income and credit.