Thursday, February 25th, 2010
What steps can I take to ensure that my divorce does not ruin my credit report?
The credit card companies are not interested in how assets, homes, and the bills are divided during a divorce case. Credit card companies have only one objective and that is to be paid! If you have joint credit card debt with your spouse, then you are both legally responsible for paying it back. Even if the judgment of divorce provides that the husband is required to pay off the family’s credit card debt, if he does not pay it off, then the credit card companies will then sue the wife. Creditors are not legally bound to abide by the terms of the final judgment of divorce. A family court’s order does not override what you owe to your creditors. Below are some practical and real world advice that will help keep your divorce case from ruining your credit report.
A. Close any joint credit card accounts.
Before you separate whenever possible, you should close all joint credit card accounts. If you close them before you file for divorce, then you could prevent an angry spouse from racking up huge credit card balances and other types of charges. You should try to close as many joint accounts that have credit available on them. Close joint credit card accounts. Close diner club accounts. Try to file separate tax returns so you can limit any tax liability for that year. You can avoid countless aggravation, and save yourself some serious money if you stop your angry spouse from maxing out the family’s credit cards. I had one case wherein an aggrieved spouse ran up a $6,000 water bill during a nasty divorce cases. Don’t let yourself become a victim, try to cut off as many joint accounts as possible. You can’t reduce your exposure to zero, however you can certainly cut off jointly held credit cards. Moreover, you should try to get any jointly held phone services and other utilities out of your name if possible.
B. Change your joint credit card accounts to separate or individual accounts.
If you are getting divorced then you should get used to living your life separate and apart from your spouse. Therefore, it is critically important that you should immediately turn all credit cards, gas cards and any retail accounts into individual accounts.
C. Settle up with your creditors if necessary.
If you and your spouse have any lingering outstanding debt, then it many not be a bad idea to settle some of your debt. You can always offer to close the accounts by paying a smaller amount than is owed. If this is done, then you should always obtain a letter from the creditor that the account has been paid in full. Moreover, you should obtain a written promise that they will not file any derogatory about the account with the three major credit bureaus. You should make all efforts to protect your credit report. Bad marks on your credit report will cost you money in the future.
D. Freeze your accounts.
If you are not able to pay off or reach a settlement with your credit card companies, then the next best step is to freeze your cards. Unfortunately, you will not be able to use the credit card(s) but it should protect you from your spouse racking up high bills. Once the divorce case is finalized, then any credit card balances can be transferred to the spouse the court holds responsibly for the debt. If the responsible party does not pay the debt then you don’t have to worry about it affecting your credit report.
E. Contact your creditors.
If you are getting divorced then you should advise your creditors. If there is a change of address, then you should make sure they know it so that you will continue to receive bills from all joint accounts. If your spouse racks up bills on a joint credit card, if you have given notice to the creditor, then this could be a valid defense to any future collection cases that may filed to collect this debt.
F. Make sure all bills are being paid.
Divorce cases can take many long months or even years to finish. Unfortunately, all it takes is one late payment to hurt your credit. Therefore, even if you have to pay the credit card bill that you are certain will be your spouse’s responsibility it will be worth it in the long run.