Worrying about your credit and how it will be affected during a divorce is unsettling. Even if you’re going through the process amicably, it is important to protect yourself. There’s no need to add financial hardship to the emotional pain of a divorce.
Close or separate your joint accounts BEFORE divorce is filed
Once the divorce is filed, parties are not allowed to close any accounts or liquidate any assets so if possible, before the divorce process begins, you should close or separate your joint accounts. This includes any bills and utilities. (It should be noted here as well that parties are also not allowed to cancel or remove their spouse from any insurance policies once the divorce is filed.) While you are both responsible for the debt, if accounts are left open an ex-spouse can add to the debt without taking responsibility, make late payments or miss them completely. Even if they are causing the problem, you will be held equally responsible.
Notify creditors about your divorce
Once you have closed any joint accounts, you should send certified written notification of your divorce to your creditors. This includes any other lenders as well as your credit card and banks. At this point we would certainly advise that you request a statement of current balances and make it clear that you will not be held liable for any debt accumulated after the date of your request. You can ask for your account to be put into an inactive state to prevent any further charges being added. Once the balance is paid off fully, request that the account be closed.
Keep up with payments
Keep up with paying your bills and creditors and, importantly, update your address if you are the one to move. The last thing you want at this difficult time is to miss a payment on anything because a notification was missed in the mail. A missed payment can stay on your profile for up to seven years. Even if you haven’t been able to separate your accounts yet, you can’t afford to miss any.
If your soon-to-be-ex spouse has already shown some vengeful behavior or has clearly overspent, you can put a freeze on your account and set up a fraud alert. This will prevent any other spending as well as ensuring there are no other accounts being opened in your name with your social security details.
Start to build your credit independently
It’s a good idea to get a credit card with a small limit on it. Spend a little and repay diligently to build up your own credit score. Of course, be sensible about spending within a strict limit you can manage to pay off. The key is to start small and go from there.
Seek mediation from an experienced attorney
Splitting financial obligations amicably can be very difficult and often a mediator is needed. Whether or not you need legal assistance in this, dealing with splitting responsibilities first and foremost is the best option for you to move forward and gain your own financial independence.
Keep a close eye on all statements and credit reports, don’t let anything slip through the cracks. Even if your ex spouse has agreed to take on one of your joint financial responsibilities from your marriage (for example, a car loan), ask that duplicate statements are sent to you as well. This way you can be sure they are holding up their end and deal with it right away if they are not.
Divorce can be a lengthy and stressful process, but starting a fresh financially as soon as possible is a great way to keep moving forward and gain your independence again.
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