Divorce Attorney Tips: Protecting Your Credit
What steps can guys take to protect their credit before, during and after divorce?
Maura Boogay, Pennsylvania divorce attorney
When thinking about a divorce, it is wise to run your credit history for your credit score.
When you receive your report, review the credit card accounts to see if there are cards tied to your name of which you were not aware.
Attempt to close any unused accounts and attempt to have your name removed from any joint accounts insomuch as the credit card companies will allow this.
Once a divorce is pending, you want to work with the opposing party to the extent possible to get joint cards into a frozen status so that debts are not continuing to be incurred in your name.
You also want to maintain a tracking of all monthly bills that could negatively impact your credit, (such as, car payments, mortgage payments, credit card payments, lines of credit and personal loans). Be sure these are getting paid appropriately.
A husband will often owe a support obligation to his wife who remains in the marital residence, and she is in turn responsible for the mortgage payments. Be sure those are getting made in a timely fashion, as it will negatively impact your credit otherwise. If necessary, you can often file a petition for protection from the court.
After the divorce, you want to be sure all joint credit cards and loans are disposed of, either by way of closure, satisfaction or refinancing. Do not wait to get ducks in a row on this, as it can easily be left for a rainy day but can result in serious damage to your credit if left unattended.
Also, be cognizant of the marital residence. For example, if it was listed for sale your ex remains in the home, she is somewhat in control of showings and opens; however, your mortgage must still be paid in the meantime. Participate in the sale process fully to be sure it is as efficient as possible.
Leighann Fink, Ohio divorce attorney
Before Divorce: Limit joint credit cards, check your credit score regularly and do not allow your spouse to take cards out in your name.
During Divorce: Make sure your spouse is abiding by the Court’s Temporary Restraining Order and not accruing credit in your name. If she is, tell your lawyer immediately and file a Show Cause action. You should also ask your lawyer about getting your name off the mortgage if your spouse is keeping the marital residence.
After Divorce: Pay close attention to the division of debt section in your divorce decree.
Remember, if your spouse does not pay the court-ordered debt, the creditor can still come after you for payment. Inform your lawyer if the debts are not being paid, and check your credit score regularly.
Denise Michalske, Ohio divorce attorney
It is extremely important to protect your credit before, during and after divorce. The best way to protect your credit before a divorce is by not having any joint debts.
You also need to be aware of your spouse’s spending habits, as well as their past and present credit issues. Be involved in the monthly payment of bills so that you can be sure that all debts are being paid in a timely manner.
During the divorce process, it is best to negotiate so that your spouse will not be responsible for the direct payment of any debts in your name.
For example, should she be short one month after the divorce is over, it is pretty much a guarantee that she will pay the debts in her name first and worry about those in your name (and subsequently your credit) last or not at all.
Additionally, you should check your credit regularly to ensure that no accounts are being opened in your name without your knowledge. Damage to one’s credit can happen quickly and the repair process can then take years.
Jamie Spero, Pennsylvania divorce attorney
Before a divorce and during marriage, make sure you are familiar with the family finances and do not permit your spouse to have sole responsibility for paying the bills; your credit is less likely to be damaged during marriage if you are aware of how money is being spent and ensure bills are being paid on time.
During the divorce process, review a copy of your credit report from the three credit bureau agencies —Experian, Equifax and TransUnion — to ensure you are aware of all debts appearing on your credit card and that there are no additional debts accumulated during your marriage of which you are unaware. You should also provide your attorney with a copy of your credit report.
After a divorce, re-evaluate your income and expenses to determine what changes are necessary to maintain or rebuild good credit considering any obligations ordered in the divorce, such as alimony or child support.
Anne Scipior, Wisconsin divorce attorney
Start by obtaining a copy of your credit report right away to make sure that you aren’t tied to any debts that you’re not aware of.
Many credit card companies and banks are now offering free credit score tracking, but not all will actually provide you with a credit report. Knowing about what debts you’re tied to is the first step in being able to make sure those debts are being taken care of during the divorce.
Second, if there’s an issue with who is going to pay for what obligations, have your attorney get orders into place right away establishing how your bills will be paid, such as a mortgage or utilities.
Third, recognize what you can and cannot do. Sometimes in divorce, especially when you go from two incomes supporting one household to two incomes supporting two households, there is simply no longer enough money to pay the bills.
You may want to keep the house, for example, but take a hard look at your finances and see if that’s really a viable option. If it’s not, talk with your attorney about getting the house listed for sale right away.
If there are other bills you can’t pay, be proactive about talking with your creditors regarding your situation and see what options you may have. You may find out there are consolidation loans available to lower things like car payments and credit card debt.
Finally, keep an eye on your credit score. If you see a sudden drop and know you’ve been paying everything you’re responsible for, then we know your wife might not be paying on something she is supposed to.
Learning about the problem early can help us address it before it damages your credit extensively.
Emily Harris, Kentucky divorce attorney
One of the first steps to do before filing for divorce is to check your full credit report, not just the credit score, to make sure your spouse did not take on any debt without your knowledge.
After you have filed for divorce, you will want to close all joint accounts which you have with your spouse to ensure any failure to make a payment towards a debt does not negatively impact your credit.
However, you should consult with an attorney before closing any accounts to make sure your jurisdiction does not require you to have court approval and there is not an order which prohibits you from doing so.
Third, make sure that you are still getting the monthly statements every month, even if you have moved out of the marital residence, to ensure that the ordinary bills and expenses are being paid timely.
Finally, if you are concerned about your spouse taking out large amounts of debt during the divorce, you should consider putting a fraud alert on your accounts so that no new accounts can be opened in your name.
Rebecca DeVincent, Virginia divorce attorney
Before and during a divorce, it is a good idea to run a credit report and see what cards are listed in your name.
This will let you know if your spouse opened any cards in your name during your marriage without your permission and also gives you a clear understanding of the marital debt issues in your divorce. You can protect your credit by closing joint accounts.
Also evaluate what joint debts you have, such as car loans and mortgages. If you co-signed a loan on behalf of your spouse, you need to work to get an agreement in place that the loan will be refinanced so that your name is removed from the loan.
During and after your divorce, continue to monitor your credit report to ensure no new debt is being incurred in your name without your permission and to also ensure your spouse or former spouse is paying the debts that were found to be his or her responsibility as part of the divorce.
Rebecca Nelson, North Carolina divorce attorney
Limit your exposure to disaster. If you are contemplating separation with your wife, it is often wise to consider lowering the credit limits on credit cards. This will prevent wife from incurring debt for which you are jointly responsible.
If possible, remove your wife as an authorized used on any credit cards. Get a credit report and call creditors to discuss any debts you do not recognize. Freeze any home equity lines and retirement accounts so precious assets cannot be encumbered without your knowledge.
Sometimes, a creditor may seem hesitant to set these limits, but remember that persistence may save you from financial disaster.
If you are the supporting spouse, some states require you to maintain the status quo, and there may be repercussions for limiting wife’s ability to purchase food and necessities. On the flipside, if your wife can purchase a Mercedes on your credit card, assume she will and be proactive in protecting yourself.
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