There are many things to consider during the divorce process. Leaving a once-loving partnership behind, feelings of hurt and anger, separating a family, and untangling combined finances into two separate households. In the midst of the emotional upheaval of a divorce, you may consider the impacts of the marriage dissolution on everything from your children’s emotional well-being to your romantic life. But sometimes divorcing couples forget to think about how a divorce affects their individual credit scores.
Your good credit becomes more important than ever when you’re beginning a new life after a divorce. That’s why it’s important to consider the impact divorce could have on your credit score.
Divorce Itself Doesn’t Impact Your Credit Score
You may have heard the misleading fact that divorce doesn’t affect your credit score. On the surface, this is true. Credit reporting agencies don’t actually monitor your marital status and whether you’re married, single, or divorced doesn’t reflect in your score. Credit scores range from 300 to 850 with any score over 700 typically considered very good credit. Your credit score is a number based on several factors in your financial history including:
- Total debt level
- Repayment history
- Total number of open accounts
While no part of the divorce process itself impacts the credit score of either spouse, the disruption of the normal household financial routines and processes can affect the credit scores of both parties in often unanticipated ways in the months and years after divorcing.
Why Divorce and Credit Problems May Go Hand in Hand
Most married couples hold at least some joint accounts, even if they began their marriage with separate accounts and planned to keep them separate. Shared credit cards and a mortgage cause separate lines of credit to have an impact on each other. Once a couple becomes divorced and their debts and assets are divided, the following circumstances may impact their individual credit scores:
- Both parties may be unclear as to which debts are now theirs alone
- Normal bill-paying routines become completely disrupted
- Creditors don’t often honor divorce decrees, so you may still face liability if an ex-spouse misses a payment on a debt assigned to him/her during the divorce
Even though divorce decrees specify who is responsible for each debt, these decisions alone do not break a contract with a lender. Even years after a divorce, one party may discover an unpaid debt having a devastating impact on their credit score because their name was on the joint account despite the allocation of the debt to the other spouse. Consider meeting with an experienced Los Angeles divorce lawyer to explore your legal options.
Protecting Your Credit During Divorce
While the aftermath of a divorce can cause unforeseen impacts on credit scores, there are steps you can take to protect yourself. You can become proactive in guarding your good credit in the following ways:
- Keep communication open with an ex-spouse whenever possible, remaining calm, polite, and open to reasonable discussions so you can work together on paying off any joint debts
- Discuss options with each lender for converting joint accounts to individual accounts for each debt that’s now your responsibility and those of your ex-spouse
- Have your ex-spouse’s name removed as an authorized user of your accounts and double-check that you are not an authorized user of accounts you thought were yours alone
- If your name remains on any account, make sure that all payments arrive on time
- Check your credit score regularly to look for discrepancies
- Understand how your change in income will affect your ability to manage your debts
By taking these steps and remaining mindful of the many ways divorce impacts your finances — including changing the income level of both parties — you can minimize the chances of finding out the hard way that an unpaid debt has damaged your credit score after divorce.