There are two types of accounts you’ll be dealing with when trying to protect your credit in a divorce: secured and unsecured. Both are handled very differently during a divorce. Click here to read about secured debt. Unsecured accounts are debts with no assets backing them, such as credit card accounts.
Here are my suggestions for the best ways to minimize or eliminate any damage to your credit from unsecured accounts during a divorce:
- ELIMINATE OBLIGATIONS WHERE YOU CAN: A credit card or a statement with your name on it does not make you a joint owner of the account. Unless the account was originally opened with an application SIGNED BY YOU, you may only be an authorized signer and you can request to have your name removed from the account immediately. Or vice versa, if your spouse is on the account as an authorized signer you will want to have his name removed to avoid any future charges. Be aware however, if negative credit was incurred while you were on the account, the past information will still remain.
- CLOSE JOINT ACCOUNTS: If there is no balance on the account, call the creditor and close the account immediately.
- FREEZE ANY FUTURE CHARGES: If there is a balance that cannot be paid off right away, the creditor typically will not allow you to close the account. In this case, call the creditor and request to freeze the account from any future charges. This will allow you to pay off the balance over time without making you vulnerable to more debt. Such an action will stop BOTH spouses from using the account, so it is important that you make certain you have another credit card in your own name before you take that course of action.
- TRANSFER BALANCES TO RESPONSIBLE PARTY’S INDIVIDUAL CARD: Request that the responsible spouse transfer remaining balances on a joint card to another credit card with available credit that is in their name only. Once this is done, CLOSE THE JOINT ACCOUNT IMMEDIATELY.
Protecting your credit is crucial to making sure that you start off on the right foot when you’re ready to move on with your life after your divorce.