Getting a Divorce


Divorce can be a lengthy process that may strain your finances and leave you feeling out of control. But with the right preparation, you can protect your interests, take charge of your future, and move on with your life. The checklist on the left will get you started.

Knowing the state of your pre-divorce finances will pave the way to a new financial life.

If you are considering—or facing—a divorce, it is vital to plan for the dissolution of the financial partnership of marriage.

This involves dividing the financial assets you have accumulated over the years. It also may entail living on less money than you have before. Taking the time to plan now will pay future dividends.

Estimate your post-divorce living expenses.

Figure out how much it will cost you to live after the divorce. This figure is especially important for the spouse who is planning to remain in the family home with the children; it may be determined that the estimated living expenses are not manageable.

To estimate these expenses, add together all of your monthly debts and living expenses, including rent or mortgage. Then total your after-tax monthly income from all sources. The remaining amount is your disposable income.

Here are some tips for handling the credit aspects of divorce, both in the planning stages and afterwards.

Cancel all joint accounts

First, it is important to cancel all joint accounts immediately once you know you are going to obtain a divorce.

Creditors have the right to seek payment from either party on a joint credit card or other credit account, no matter which party actually incurred the bill. If you allow your name to remain on joint accounts with your ex-spouse, you are also responsible for the bills.

Your divorce agreement may specify which one of you pays the bills. As far as the creditor is concerned, however, both you and your spouse remain responsible if the joint accounts remain open.

The creditor will try to collect the bill from whoever it thinks may be able to pay, and at the same time report the late payments to the credit bureaus under both names. Your credit history could be damaged because of the co-signer's irresponsibility.

Some credit contracts require that you immediately pay the outstanding balance in full if you close an account. If so, try to get the creditor to have the balance transferred to separate accounts.

If your spouse’s poor credit affects you

If your spouse's poor credit hurts your credit record, you may be able to separate yourself from the spouse’s information on your credit report. The Equal Credit Opportunity Act requires a creditor to take into account any information showing that the credit history being considered does not reflect your own.

If for instance, you can show that accounts you shared with your spouse were opened by him or her before your marriage, and that he or she paid the bills, you may be able to convince the creditor that the harmful information relates to your spouse’s credit record, not yours.

In practice, it is difficult to prove that the credit history under consideration does not reflect your own, and you may have to be persistent.

For women: Maintain your own credit before you need it

If a woman divorces, and changes her name on an account, lenders may review her application or credit file to see whether her qualifications alone meet their credit standards. They may ask her to reapply. (The account remains open.)

Maintaining credit in your own name avoids this inconvenience. It can also make it easier to preserve your own, separate, credit history. Further, should you need credit in an emergency, it will be available.

Do not use only your husband's name—e.g., Mrs. John Wilson—for credit purposes.

Check your credit report if you have not done so recently. Make sure the accounts you share are being reported in your name as well as your spouse's. If not, and you want to use your spouse's credit history to build your own, write to the creditor and request the account be reported in both names.

Also, determine if there is any inaccurate or incomplete information in your file. If so, write to the credit bureau and ask them to correct it. The credit bureau must confirm the data within a reasonable time period, and let you know when they have corrected the mistake.

If you have been sharing your husband's accounts, building your own credit history in your name should be fairly easy. Call a major credit bureau and request a copy of your file. Contact the issuers of the cards you share with your husband and ask them to report the accounts in your name as well.

If you used the accounts, but never co-signed for them, ask to be added on as jointly liable for some of the major credit cards. Once you have several accounts listed as references on your credit record, apply for a department store card, or even a Visa or MasterCard, in your own name.

If you held accounts jointly and they were opened before 1977 (in which case they may have been reported only in your husband's name), point them out and tell the creditor to consider them as your credit history also. The creditor cannot require your spouse's or former spouse's signature to access his credit file if you are using his information to qualify for credit.

A secured credit card is a fairly quick and easy way to get a major credit card if you do not have a credit history. Secured credit cards look and are used like regular Visa or MasterCard's, but they require a savings or money market deposit of several hundred dollars that the lender holds in case you default.

In most cases, the creditor will report your payment record on these accounts just like a regular bankcard, allowing you to build a good credit record if you pay your bills promptly.

 

Prepare FinanciallyPay or Receive Spousal Support
Copyright 2018 Mercer LLC. All rights reserved.
 
Mercer Health & Benefits Administration LLC
AR Insurance License #100102691
CA Insurance License #0G39709
In CA d/b/a Mercer Health & Benefits Insurance Services LLC