While money issues are a leading cause of marital breakdown, they can also make it hard to start over after a divorce. In fact, an estimated 15% of couples choose to legally separate instead of divorce due to concerns over the damaging effect that dissolution can have on your income, expenses, and credit score.
There’s no question that protecting your credit is essential, especially if you’re not going to be staying in the marital home or don’t have a credit card or loan in your own name. In addition, if you have shared debt with your spouse and the court orders them to pay 100% of some of these debts, then your name is still on record as a co-signer. If your spouse fails or refuses to pay them, then the lender can still go after you and damage your credit no matter what is stated in the divorce decree.
So how can you protect your credit so you can move forward? Below are some strategies you can use even if your spouse is being uncooperative about honoring their financial obligations.
Monitor your credit report
After being married to you, your spouse probably knows enough about you to obtain credit in your name. Sign up for a program like Credit Karma, which alerts you whenever a new credit card, loan, or other tradeline is opened using your information.
Remove your name from joint accounts
Whenever possible, take your name off of joint credit cards or lines of credit. With credit cards, you might arrange to pay any outstanding balance and then close the account. With secured debts like car loans and mortgages, try to have them refinanced under one person’s name if you can’t pay them off right away.
Change the passwords and log-in credentials for any credit accounts that you intend to keep, as well as websites that could include your debit and credit card information. This includes Amazon, Netflix, Sephora, and other shopping or service websites. If your former spouse knows their logins, then they could get your details and run up charges on your cards.
Opening your own bank and credit accounts
If you don’t have your own credit card or checking or savings account, then open them now. Even a low-limit credit card could help you build a strong personal credit history if everything was previously in your spouse’s name. Once it is issued, resist the temptation to indulge in retail therapy: until you’re on stronger ground financially, it’s better to avoid buying things you can’t immediately afford.
While these measures can help you build and protect credit after divorce, there is always the chance that your spouse may try to sabotage things by refusing to pay a marital debt that the court has assigned to them. If this happens, then contact your New York divorce attorney immediately so that you can take the appropriate legal action.
If you are considering filing for divorce, then set up an appointment with Jayson Lutzky. He offers free in-office initial consultations. Mr. Lutzky has over 36 years of legal experience and has helped many highly satisfied clients over the years. Call 718-329-9500 to learn more.