Divorce can be an emotionally taxing time, but it shouldn’t ruin your credit. Unfortunately, people often concentrate on the division of shared assets like houses and cars, while losing focus on their debt. Improperly handling debt during and after your divorce can result in credit problems years after your divorce is final.
Follow these tips to protect your credit for a smoother life after divorce.
Always Check Your Credit Score
Managing your credit score has never been easier. Using tools like Experian and Credit Karma can help you understand what accounts you have and show you a history those accounts.
These services monitor your credit and let you know when a new account opens or closes. Even if your ex-spouse isn’t out to financially ruin you, a small oversight could impact your credit and prevent you from purchasing a new car or home.
Close Joint Credit Accounts
During a divorce, joint credit accounts like credit cards or other forms of debt can be a huge source of conflict. Shopping sprees by one spiteful party to the divorce are much more common than you might think!
Protect yourself during your divorce by closing paid-off accounts and freezing open accounts. If credit use is a big concern in your situation, ask your divorce attorney to help you file a temporary restraining order to prevent the parties from spending joint credit. A word of caution, however—once divorce proceedings are filed, there may be orders in effect preventing account closures. Consult with your attorney to make sure that’s not the case.
Draft a Credit-Protective Divorce Decree
If protecting your credit after divorce a high priority, it’s imperative that your divorce decree be drafted with all available protections. Once the court signs the divorce decree, it may be difficult or even impossible to go back and make changes to the debt structure.
There are many different strategies your attorney may consider to protect your credit. These include assignment of debt to a party based on their liability classification, or making sure that any debt you’re exposed to is paid off from proceeds of liquidation prior to distribution.
The court can also require a former spouse to refinance debt solely into his or her own name as a condition to keep certain assets—and there can be serious consequences if a prior spouse fails to pay or refinance the debt. An attorney will often advise against structuring a divorce decree to let your former spouse take extra assets based on the rationale they will take on extra debt, since this could result in the former spouse defaulting on the debt while keeping your assets.
Double-Check on Post-Divorce Changes
Once your divorce is finalized, make sure to follow up on changes that were negotiated that could affect your credit score. It’s always a good idea to do a post-divorce follow-up to ensure that your former spouse has met all of their court-ordered, debt-related obligations.
Always double-check that paid and joint accounts alike are closed. The last thing you need is a surprise that sneaks up on you later in life as you apply for a new line of credit.
Marx, Altman & Johnson is the Value Firm That Helps You Finalize Your Divorce
Divorce can be an excellent way for unhappy couples to start life anew. Whether your divorce is contested or not, don’t let the process become more costly than it has to be. The attorneys at Marx, Altman & Johnson strive to accommodate the needs of our clients.
If you need help with the divorce process, we’re ready to advise you. Contact us today for an initial free consultation with a divorce attorney in Dallas, Fort Worth, Arlington, and surrounding cities.