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Divorce is one of the hardest things many people have to go through. What’s worse is that you may emerged with a damaged credit rating, hurting your chances of rebuilding your life. While it may be difficult to focus on financial issues during such a difficult time, remember that your credit may be all you have left after the divorce. Credit is such a serious issue that there are even some prenuptial agreements that include clauses to protect the credit of both individuals in case of divorce. Here’s a step-by-step guide to salvaging and keeping your good credit while you undergo a divorce.
Step one: Collect all of your credit card statements, loan papers, mortgage agreements, bank account records and any other financial and debt records that are in your name or you have jointly with your spouse. This will give you a very clear image of how much money is owed, who created the debt originally, how old it is and who the creditors are.
Step two: Try contacting all of the creditors for each jointly held account that you are responsible for. When you contact the creditors, you can try asking them to release you from the agreement and responsibility of repayment, or ask that the account be changed to an individual account. Bear in mind, however, that they have no obligation to do this. Chances are you signed an agreement with your spouse when the account was created, agreeing to equal liability on the account. Still, although the creditor probably won’t remove you from the account, it’s a good first step to take.
Step three: Make sure all payments are made on time and all debt is repaid! This is the most important way you can salvage your credit during a divorce. Unfortunately, during divorce many people stop making payments on credit cards and other debt, either to hurt the other individual or because they don’t care anymore. Remember how important your credit history is to your future and make sure you and your spouse are paying all accounts each month.
Step four: Keep paying jointly held accounts. You’ll need to keep making the monthly payments on all accounts that bear your name until the status of the accounts is changed and you are no longer liable for them. While it may be tempting to simply pay your individual credit accounts, the jointly held accounts are just as important to your credit.
Step five: It may be necessary to take out a loan. If you’re having trouble making payments on debt and credit cards after divorce, either because of rising costs or lack of money, you may need to take out a loan to pay off all your debt. This can be helpful because it keeps the debt from growing, reduces the interest rate, clears up disagreements and will reduce your many payments to a single loan. This will also help you start over after the divorce.
Above all, don’t let yourself use credit cards to keep you afloat after a divorce. This is one of the worst things you can do to your credit, especially if you begin opening new lines of credit to cover legal fees or living costs. If you’re having trouble with living expenses, contact a lawyer or legal service to begin receiving support from your spouse. You can also try finding affordable, alternative ways to make a low-cost divorce if legal fees are a worry. You may also be surprised to hear that many lawyers now have payment plans available, particularly for situations like this. You can also try to work with your lawyer to have your spouse pay the legal fees, especially if they were the primary wage-earner.
Divorce can be one of the most saddening and financially hard times of your life but don’t let your credit slide, no matter how you feel. Your credit rating will help you secure a job after the divorce, find housing and acquire new credit, if need be. Letting your credit slide will hurt you in more ways than one, making the divorce an even harder blow.