If you’re contemplating divorce, surely you have concerns about your financial health. If you decide to take the plunge, you want to start taking steps immediately to protect your credit during the divorce process. Everything, from renting an apartment, to securing a home mortgage, to taking out an auto loan, to getting new credit cards in your name depends on you having a good FICO score. Here are some tips to protect your credit score during divorce.
What You Need to Know About Community Debt
California is a community property state, which means both spouses are equally entitled to the marital estate (50/50) and each spouse is equally liable for the community debt, which is all debt acquired during the marriage, regardless of who incurred the debt or whose name is on the debt.
Take this advice:
Order your credit report now and find out what debts you have. The credit report will indicate which debts belong to you and which debts are joint.
Closely monitor your credit report and debts, especially the ones your spouse can access. These include joint credit cards, bank loans, home equity lines of credit, and mortgages.
Concerned your spouse could borrow money in your name? We suggest signing up for a credit monitoring service which will alert you with any new credit activity.
Resist the urge to max out the credit cards, whether they’re in your name only or joint. If you engage in “revenge spending,” the judge can decide you’re liable for the entire debt.
If you can, close joint accounts; however, you’ll probably only be able to close the accounts with a zero balance. Still, call all credit card companies and banks and ask that the joint account be closed. Follow up in writing with a letter stating that you want the creditor to close the account and keep a copy of the letter for your records. Also, take detailed notes from any conversations with creditors.
Even though you’re going through a divorce, stay current on all joint accounts, even if the bank lets you close an account with a balance. If you skip payments because your spouse is supposed to take over a debt, the missed payments will hurt your credit score.
If a creditor on a joint account won’t let you close the account, freeze it so further charges can be prevented. You’ll still be equally liable for the debt and you’ll still have to make sure the account is paid, but at least no one can add new charges to the account. Again, mail a letter and keep detailed records of conversations with the bank.
Talk to your divorce attorney immediately about closing all joint checking and savings accounts and opening new ones in your name alone, as there are specific rules and procedures that need to be followed in California to protect your interests.