How Can Divorce Hurt Your Credit Score?

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Divorce is a challenging life event with far-reaching consequences, including your credit health. While divorce doesn’t directly impact your credit scores, the financial implications and decisions made during the process can significantly affect you. This comprehensive guide will explore how divorce can impact your credit and provide practical tips on protecting your credit during this challenging time.

Table of Contents

At a Glance

  • While divorce cannot impact your credit score, joint accounts and other co-mingled expenses can.
  • Ensure you close any joint accounts and remove your ex-spouse as an authorized user on any of your cards.
  • Remain in contact with your creditors to ensure they can provide you with the best options for your situation.
  • Rebuilding credit takes time, but it is possible.

Understanding the Relationship Between Divorce and Credit

It’s important to note that divorce does not directly impact your credit score. Your marital status is not a factor considered by credit reporting agencies when calculating your creditworthiness. However, the financial decisions made during a divorce, particularly regarding joint accounts and shared debts, can affect your credit health. Here’s why:

Joint Accounts

One of the most common ways divorces can impact your credit is through joint accounts. Joint credit accounts, such as credit cards, auto loans, or mortgages, might be held in both spouses’ names. While these accounts can provide convenience and shared responsibility during a marriage, they can become problematic during a divorce.

When joint accounts are not managed properly, missed payments or defaults by one spouse can negatively affect both individuals’ credit scores. Even if a divorce decree assigns responsibility for specific debts, lenders are not bound by this agreement and can still report missed payments by either party.

Due to the messy nature of divorce, your ex might ignore credit card bills or loans like mortgages. These actions might be because of oversight or feeling like they aren’t their problem until a judge decides. If the judge rules that these loans are held jointly, any missed payments will negatively impact both spouses’ credit scores.

Divorce Decrees

A divorce decree is a legal document that outlines the division of assets and debts between spouses. While it may assign responsibility for certain debts to one party, it does not absolve both parties from the contractual obligations with lenders. This means that even if your ex-spouse is ordered to pay a joint debt, if they fail to do so, it can still impact your credit if your name remains on the account.

It’s crucial to understand that divorce decrees do not bind lenders and can continue to hold both parties responsible for joint debts. You must take proactive steps to separate your finances and close joint accounts to protect your credit.

How to Protect Your Credit During and After Divorce

Late payments, vengeful partners, and debt are a potent combination. Fortunately, there are steps you can take to insulate yourself from the problem of credit card debt when you divorce. By following these steps, you can mitigate the potential negative impact on your credit health:

Close Joint Accounts

Closing joint accounts is crucial in protecting your credit during a divorce. Start by identifying all joint accounts, including credit cards, loans, and mortgages. Communicate with your ex-spouse and agree on each account’s best action. Where possible, close these accounts and instead open individual accounts in your name. This ensures that you have sole control over your finances and prevents any future financial entanglements.

Remove Authorized Users

Additionally, remove your ex-spouse as an authorized user on any accounts solely in your name. An authorized user is a person you add to a credit card account so that they can build credit off your hard work. If the primary cardholder has a good credit history, this can help the authorized user build or rebuild their credit.

But authorized users can cause harm to your credit should they act irresponsibly and run up a huge credit card bill – one you are on the hook for. Always ensure you are financially protected from acts of revenge by removing additional users on your credit cards.

Communicate with Your Creditors and Lenders

Communication is key in marriage, but it is especially crucial when divorce might harm your credit score. During a divorce, always communicate with all your creditors to provide updates on your changing financial circumstances. Inform them of your divorce and any changes in income, housing, or payment responsibilities. Ensure you keep all documentation, too – you might need to provide a copy of your divorce decree to support your request for account modifications.

Always be proactive in mentioning any potential financial issues. Lenders might be open to providing modifications based on your upcoming circumstances. They may be willing to work out a temporary solution or modify your payment terms to accommodate your new circumstances, including credit card forbearance.

Monitor Your Credit Reports

Regularly monitoring your credit reports and scores is vital at any time of the year, but especially so during a divorce. By staying informed about your credit status, you can quickly identify any errors or discrepancies arising from joint accounts or missed payments.

Take advantage of the free credit reports you are entitled to yearly from, offered by the three major credit reporting agencies – Experian, TransUnion, and Equifax. Review the reports thoroughly, paying close attention to any joint accounts or negative information that may impact on your credit. Your card issuer might also provide credit score insights through monthly credit monitoring and a free credit score – typically a FICO Score 8+ or VantageScore 3.0.

Related Article: What is a FAKO Score?

Continue to Manage Your Debt Payments

Divorce often leads to a redistribution of financial responsibilities and can result in increased financial strain. Managing your debt and payments effectively is essential to protect your credit. Consider the following strategies:

  • Create a comprehensive budget that reflects your new financial situation.
  • Prioritize your debts and focus on making payments on time.
  • Use the debt avalanche or debt snowball method.
  • If necessary, explore debt consolidation options to simplify your finances.
  • Seek professional financial advice to help you navigate this challenging period.

Get Professional Help if Needed

Divorce can be emotionally and financially overwhelming. Seeking professional help, such as a divorce attorney and a financial advisor, can provide valuable guidance and support throughout the process. These experts can help you understand the financial implications of your divorce, navigate complex legal matters, and develop a plan to protect your credit.

How to Rebuild Credit After Divorce

Rebuilding credit after divorce might seem daunting, but it can be done. Here are some steps to help you rebuild your credit:

Make payments on time Establish a strong credit foundation by making all payments on time. Paying all your bills on time can have a significant impact on your credit score.
Keep credit use low Keep credit utilization low by using credit sparingly and paying off balances in full. High credit utilization can negatively impact your credit score, as credit use accounts for 1/3 of your credit score. Aim to keep your credit utilization below 30% of your credit limit, as this is most recommended for boosting credit.
Monitor reports Monitoring your credit after divorce is just as important as when rebuilding your credit after separation. • Monitor your credit reports regularly to ensure accuracy and address any potential issues promptly.
Credit counseling If you are in bad fiscal shape after marriage consider credit counseling. Credit counseling servicescan help you create a debt repayment plan and negotiate with creditors.

Remember, rebuilding credit is gradual, so don’t get discouraged. It is perfectly normal to encounter difficulties along the way. The key is to remain vigilant and proactive and keep your spirits up – things will improve. It just takes time.

Refinance Debts to Reduce Payments

Debt consolidation is an excellent option for newly divorced individuals looking to improve their finances. Like late payments, some lenders may be willing to negotiate the terms of your debts, potentially even consolidating multiple accounts with the same bank. This process can help you reduce monthly payments. There are also private companies and products designed for debt consolidation. Companies like OppLoans and Smarter Loans provide personal loans that allow consumers to pay off debts with higher interest rates instead of paying one lower monthly rate.

The Upgrade Cash Rewards Visa® is similar, though in credit card form. The card provides credit limits of up to $20,000 and a competitive APR. The card works as a credit and installment loan, allowing users to pay down existing balances and then make one low payment in installments of between 12 and 60 months. This can take some pressure off your finances, protecting you from a divorce-related credit score plunge.

Summing It Up

Divorce can present unique financial hurdles and significantly impact your credit health. However, by understanding the potential risks, taking proactive measures to protect your credit, and seeking professional guidance, you can navigate this challenging period and emerge with your credit intact. Remember, rebuilding credit takes time, so be patient and diligent. Following these strategies ensures that your credit remains strong even during the difficult divorce process. Take control of your financial future and protect your credit health.

Related Article: Free Credit Monitoring from Card Issuers

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About: Cory Santos
Cory Santos

Cory is the senior credit card editor at BestCards, specializing in everything credit card-related. He’s worked extensively with credit cards and other personal finance topics, including nearly five years at BestCards. Cory’s extensive knowledge is an essential part of the BestCards experience, helping readers to live their best financial lives with up-to-date insights and comprehensive coverage of all facets of the credit card space, including market trends, rewards guides, credit advice, and comprehensive credit card reviews.

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