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How Does Divorce Affect Your Credit Score?

For anyone who’s gotten divorced or is currently in the process of getting one, you know how painful divorce can be. And apart from the emotional strain, you now have to think about your finances too. A common concern among divorcees is what will happen to their finances once they separate. How will divorce affect their credit? Will it be damaged?  
The process of getting divorced itself has no impact on credit. Your marital status is not included on your credit report, so divorce does not directly impact your credit history or credit score. But, the bad news is that more often than not, divorce will have some impact on your credit. Married couples normally have some joint financial accounts or obligations, and those very much affect your credit score. So what are some ways that divorce will affect your score? 
  • When you go to court, a divorce decree may specify who is responsible for accounts opened during the marriage. They may say that your ex has to pay off a given debt, say one of your joint credit cards. However, while the divorce decree binds the two of you, it does not bind the credit card company. So, the creditor can still seek collection from either party. And if your ex makes late payments or is unable to pay at all, both of you will end up with negative items on your credit reports and lower credit scores. 
  • In some cases, nasty divorces can lead to vindictive behavior. An angry ex may make large purchases on joint accounts in the hopes of punishing the other person with debt or damaging their credit history. 
  • The divorce could also indirectly lead to financial troubles for you. Without two incomes, you may find yourself falling behind on your payments. And if you do end up with a lot of debt or missed payments due to the financial strain of the divorce, your credit score will fall.
So what are some things you can do to keep your credit intact after the divorce?
  • If you are a joint owner, cosigner, or authorized user on a joint account, that account history will be factored into your credit score. So, if you hold a joint account with your ex or soon-to-be-ex, even if they have been ordered to pay it, it is important to have your name removed from those accounts so that you are no longer obligated to pay. Close these accounts, and ask the creditor not to re-open them. Once your name is removed, you will no longer have to pay off the card, and your credit will not be affected by any late or missed payments.This goes the same for loans. If you have a joint loan, like a mortgage or car loan, you will want to take your name off the account. 
  • Although it may be easier said than done, try to maintain a civil relationship during the divorce to insure no vindictive actions. If you can, work together to pay off and close existing joint accounts to insure that you both have good credit scores after the divorce. But it is important to keep tracking your credit score throughout the process. You can access a free credit report each year from AnnualCreditReport.com. Check it each year to make sure the divorce process or your ex have not created any errors.
  • If you are having financial troubles after the divorce, don’t fret. It’s normal to feel overwhelmed when your income drops, but there are easy things you can do to make sure you don’t fall into too much debt. Here are some ways you can stay on top of your credit: http://www.creditnet.com/articles/top-10-things-you-can-do-today-to-improve-your-credit.php 
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Alice Bryant's picture

Alice Bryant is the Editor of Creditnet and a personal finance expert with over a decade of experience writing about credit cards, credit scores, debt repair, and more.

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