Going through a divorce will take its toll on your emotional and financial well-being. But did you know that it can also affect your credit score?
When you’re thinking about getting a divorce, or already going through divorce, worrying about your credit score is probably low on the priority list but it’s not something you should ignore entirely.
In these difficult times where your credit score dictates everything from where and if you will be able to rent, to how much interest you will pay on a car loan, and what your auto insurance rates will be for the year, it’s still important to think about ways you can minimize the impact of divorce on your credit score.
When you are going through a divorce, you want to be able to start your life over with the odds stacked in your favor.
Here are five tips for protecting your credit score before and after you file for divorce:
- Determine what your credit score is. Few people actually know what their individual credit score is, especially if they have multiple shared accounts with their spouse. Order your credit report from www.annualcreditreport.com using your own Social Security number and make sure it’s free of any errors or mistakes. Report any errors and talk to companies that may have misreported information to the credit bureaus to have things cleared up as quickly as possible. Then get your FICO credit score from www.myfico.com.
- Make a list of joint accounts. You will need to request a separation of accounts from each credit card company, bank, and other financing companies either during or right after the divorce process. Make sure you know what the policy is for separating accounts and ask each company if they will need to set up a new account with your individual credit score. Remember: if you have to re-apply for a slew of new accounts, too many credit checks will make a dent in your credit score. So only apply for credit accounts that you truly need.
- Make payments consistently on joint accounts. Make sure all of your accounts are current so you don’t end up with late payments and lose points on your credit score. Your credit score will go down if you miss a payment on an account that has your name on it – even if your spouse will be assuming the entire debt in the near future. Also, just because you have a court order, divorce decree or property settlement agreement that says your ex is supposed to pay certain bills, if they don’t – and if that account was a joint account – you’re still legally liable for it. Thus, creditors can still report non-payment of those accounts on your credit reports.
- Open a new bank account. Set the stage for a better financial future by setting up a single bank account under your name. If you’re simultaneously applying for a credit card with that bank, then your bank may need to run a credit check to set up your account. You will need to transfer money out of any joint accounts soon and eventually close the joint account. Different institutions have different rules on closing a joint account, so you’ll need to check with your bank or even your divorce lawyer to find out what steps you need to take to authorize the account closure.
- Consider freezing joint credit accounts. You can put a freeze on certain accounts if you think your spouse is still racking up a bill that you might eventually be responsible for. Talk to your attorney about all open joint credit accounts and be prepared to write a letter to freeze some or all of these accounts right away.