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Couples who decide to go their separate ways often find that debts are more difficult to divvy up than physical belongings. Post-divorce credit can be a complex consideration. Find out what you need to know below so you’re not surprised at any changes to your creditworthiness or score.
Note: Consult a divorce attorney for your specific situation if necessary.
Yes, getting divorced can hurt your credit. Whether it does—and how much of a hit you take—depends on a variety of factors. That’s because divorce itself doesn’t have a direct impact on your credit score. Credit reports don’t care about—and don’t even list—your marital status. How integrated your personal finances were as a couple, what type of cash you have on hand and your financial standing before the divorce, however, can all play a role in your post-divorce credit situation.
When you get divorced, debts don’t automatically get resolved. Joint debts don’t get sawed in two, and you can’t simply dole them out as if you’re dealing a deck of cards. You and your spouse might agree to a one-for-you, one-for-me division of debts, but the creditors aren’t likely to let you each off the hook that easy.
If you and your ex originally signed up for joint credit, you both agreed to be financially responsible for the debt. You can’t typically call a credit card company or mortgage lender and tell them you no longer wish to be connected with the account and obligation because you’re no longer married to your cosigner.
So, what happens to debts when you get divorced? If you have individual debts—accounts under your name only—you take those with you when you leave the marriage. If you have joint debts, several actions are common.
All that activity with your existing debt can impact your credit after a divorce.
First, if you simply agree to split debts and pay them, you’re trusting the other person to do their job. If they don’t pay or they pay late, that negative information hits your credit report too. And if they let something default or go into collections, you could end up on the hook for it.
Even if everyone pays as they’re supposed to or you restructure debt to take out new loans and remove the other person’s name, your credit can take a hit. Your credit score isn’t impacted only by missed payments. Five major factors drive your score, including your mix and age of credit and how much of your credit you’re using.
If you restructure your debt following divorce, you may find yourself with only new accounts or only one type of credit account. That can bring your score down slightly. Because you’re now a single ship in the financial waters, you may also find that you’re using a higher percentage of your available credit. Credit utilization accounts for 30% of your credit score. In some cases, this can be a big hit.
Another common post-divorce credit consideration is whether or not you can realistically pay the debts you’re now committed to. You may have moved from a situation where two incomes were supporting a single household. Now, you have one income for your own household, and many people find themselves in a financial situation where ends are harder to meet. If your new financial situation leads to late payments on debts owed, you can quickly tank your own credit in the year or so following a divorce.
If that’s not enough to worry about, it’s possible—and even somewhat likely—that in the shuffle of paperwork and reporting following a divorce, your credit report could be wrong. Debts that are your spouse’s might show up on your report, or items that were paid and handled by one person might not get deleted from another person’s reports.
How you fix your credit after divorce depends on what you need to address. If your credit is going south because of joint accounts not being handled appropriately, you can try to take out a consolidation loan or balance transfer card to get everything in your name and take charge of the debt. You could also demand that your ex do the same for any accounts that they agreed to be responsible for. If things have reached a noncivil point, consider talking to your divorce attorney to find out what options you have.
If debts have been handled and divided in a fair and legal manner and you’re simply struggling with your new financial situation, take some time to consider what type of budget might work for you. By managing your finances responsibly and making on-time payments, you can raise your credit score over time.
Finally, if your credit has taken a hit because of inaccurate or unfair information on your credit reports, you might consider bringing in some professional help. Credit repair firms work on your behalf to dispute inaccurate information on your reports to get it removed. Chances are, you’re working hard to create a new positive future for yourself, so it can be helpful peace of mind to have someone in-the-know working on this aspect of your life for you.
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