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Divorce and Your Credit Report

With the stress of divorce and/or marital separation comes the stress of paying your bills and dividing your finances.  Maintaining good credit post divorce can be challenging.  It is important to understand that a legal separation does not alleviate you of your responsibility and obligation to pay your bills with your spouse that were joint debts incurred while you were married. 

Divorce Does Not Diminish Responsibility for Debt

First, it is important to understand that even a divorce decree does not diminish your responsibility of paying off debt incurred during your marriage.  You are still responsible for all accounts that had your name on them.  A divorce decree entered in divorce court only applies to the parties to the divorce – the spouses.  Creditors and other parties that were not part of creating the divorce decree do not have to abide by it.  Creditors may have a different opinion as to who they want to be chiefly responsible for the bill. Thus, unfortunately, if your spouse decides not to pay on a bill assigned to him or her in the divorce, it will reflect poorly on your credit.

Close All Joint Accounts and Split Payments

If you and your spouse have an amicable relationship, it is best to close any and all joint accounts so no additional debt can accrue, and begin the process of paying them down.  Try to split the accounts so that each party pays what they can afford.  Forcing a spouse to take responsibility for a bill in both names that he or she cannot afford will only set you up for ruined credit. 

Rebuilding Your Credit

Hopefully neither spouse will have to completely rebuild their credit.  But when doing so, the best way to build your credit is to start with one credit card and never charge more than you can afford.  Also, open utilities in your name and always pay on time.  Try to switch your cell phone and your gas, electric and water bill so that you can improve your credit.  While these utilities don’t generally show up on your consumer report, there are separate reports for these types of bills that credit grantors can request to see. 

Watch Your Credit Report and Any Unpaid Joint Obligations

Unfortunately, when people split, they tend to go their own ways and not keep in contact with each other.  If there were joint accounts open between the two, not knowing whether the one who agreed to pay is performing their obligation can be detrimental.  Always keep an eye on your credit report to see that the account is being kept current, and if it is not, you need to take action yourself. 

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If you believe your rights have been violated and you would like the advice or assistance of counsel, contact SmithMarco, P.C. for a completely free case review.

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