Going through divorce is difficult enough, but discovering your credit has been damaged in the process adds insult to injury. The risk of losing credit is just one of many reasons to seek financial counseling when going through a divorce.
Many an unsuspecting divorcee’ realizes after-the-fact her/his credit score has taken a severe hit from late payments on joint credit cards and/or delinquent car or mortgage payments. But the credit cards were supposed to be paid off per the divorce settlement! And I don’t live in the house anymore! That’s his car—not mine.
- All that may be true but your name is still attached to those cards and those notes and ultimately, you are held jointly responsible. Remember, although you and your spouse shared credit it only takes one (whether vindictive or accidental) to taint your hard-earned FICO (Fair Isaac & Co.) score. And it takes at least 24 months to restore credit after one late payment is recorded. So how can you protect your credit score?
- If you are moving out of the marital home, insist that your former spouse refinance in his name. Make that condition a part of the settlement.
- Insist that all jointly held credit cards be paid off. Write a letter to those companies disclosing the divorce. Delineate that you want to close the joint account but want to open up a new one in your name. You might be tempted to simply close all former accounts and start afresh. Don’t. Closing accounts will actually lower your FICO score as this reduces your available credit capacity.
- If you have trouble remembering to pay your bills, sign up for automatic bill pay. Also, some banks offer a monitoring system whereby you are notified immediately if you’ve overlooked a payment date.
- Do your homework. Follow up on agreements made in the divorce settlement. If your former spouse is supposed to be paying a debt that your name is still associated with, make sure they are paying that debt. Even though your divorce decree says they are responsible, the creditors do not honor that document.
About 15 percent of your total FICO score is attributed to credit history.
Again, don’t close all your revolving accounts. Your score will plummet.
Protect your credit score like you would a treasured heirloom. Your credit score should be valued as part of your financial portfolio! It will certainly dictate the interest rates you are qualified for on credit cards and mortgage loans and it can also aid you in securing lower premiums for car and home insurance.