Creditors aren’t interested in how property and bills are divided during divorce. If you have debt in joint accounts with your spouse, you are both responsible for paying it back.
Creditors are not legally bound to abide by your final decree of divorce. A judge’s order does not override what you owe your creditors and most attorneys don’t alert their clients to the potential for problems if one spouse does not follow the court order. Below are some tips that will help keep divorce from ruining your credit.
- Close joint accounts. Before you separate when possible, close all joint credit accounts. Closing them before divorce proceedings will keep an angry spouse from using the account and running up charges that you may later be held responsible for.
- Go from joint accounts to separate or individual accounts. You should seriously consider turning all credit cards, gas cards and any retail accounts into individual accounts. Doing this will mean not having to re-establish credit in your own name after the divorce because you will already have it. It can also cut down on the amount of friction once the divorce process starts.
- Settle with creditors. Offer to close the accounts by paying a smaller amount than is owed. If this is done, get a letter from the creditor that the account has been paid in full and a written promise that they will not file anything derogatory about the account to the credit reporting agencies.
- Freeze accounts. If you are not able to pay off or come to a settlement agreement regarding the balance owed this would be your best move. This will keep you from being able to use the account but will also protect you in the long run. Once the divorce is final, the balance owed on the account can be transferred to the party the court holds responsible for the debt. If the responsible party does not pay the debt then you don’t have to worry about it affecting your credit score.
- Contact your creditors. Alert them to the fact that you are going through a divorce. If there is a change of address, make sure they know it so that you will continue to receive bills from all joint accounts.
- Make sure all bills are being paid. Divorce proceedings can take months and all it takes is one late payment to hurt your credit. Even if you have to pay the minimum on accounts that you know will ultimately be your spouses responsibility it will be worth it.