When a marriage ends in divorce, more often than not, women face a financial crunch. Dividing the “apple into two, doesn’t give you two apples.” It becomes a priority to structure your divided finances and protect your credit.
Here are some tips:
1. OBTAIN COPIES OF YOUR CREDIT REPORT: Contact Equifax, Experian and TransUnion at www.annualcreditreport.com for free annual reports.
This is a must. You will be able to see your debts and what is in default. Court-ordered and/or consensual division of assets and debt obligations don’t always get carried out. This results in bad credit!
2. LIST ALL OPEN CREDIT AND CREDIT CARD ACCOUNTS: Provide the type of account, credit card, car loan, personal loans and home equity loans. List account numbers and balances and whether they are a joint debt. This will provide an overview of your debt.
This is especially important if your ex handled the finances and you knew little about the marriage debts.
3. SECURED JOINT DEBTS: Car loans, mortgages, home equity loans are backed by some joint asset.
You should consider selling the asset or paying up the debt to get your name removed, especially if you’re behind in payments. You endanger your credit reputation on joint credit if your ex has been lax in making payments.
4. JOINT UNSECURED DEBT: If there are balances due, have the credit card frozen so neither party can make more charges. Obtain a credit card in your own name before freezing joint accounts.
Many of you may not know about the unpaid debt. If there is negligence in paying by your ex, and the bills are going to his address, approach the creditor to see if something can be worked out—paying half of the debt without interest or penalty, especially if you were unaware of the debt.
5. ELIMINATE JOINT ACCOUNTS QUICKLY: The credit of both parties is affected by late payments. History of a 30-day late payment can lower your credit score by 75 points.
Any credit accounts or cards with zero balance, should be closed immediately. Having too many credit cards will lower your credit score and make it difficult to obtain car loans and mortgages.
Divorce doesn’t relieve spouses of joint debt. It’s wise to get a handle on the marriage debt and make payment plans as soon as possible to pay down debt to protect your credit!