February 23, 2016

Keeping an Eye on Your Credit: During & After Divorce

185064996-credit-score-gettyimagesDivorce is not fun for anyone nor is it a financially savvy thing to go through. You are splitting up what you own and what you owe to others. This often includes unpaid credit card balances and loans. What can you do to protect yourself?

I always recommend to individuals and couples going through divorce or even contemplating divorce to immediately check your credit report. You can do this by going to www.annualcreditreport.com. This is the official consumer site provided in cooperation with the three major credit bureaus (Equifax, Experian, and Transunion) and the Federal Trade Commission. You will be able to obtain your credit report free from each of the three credit bureaus. Other websites may offer free credit reports but often want you to sign up for something. Watch out for these gimmicks or better yet just use the site mentioned here.

After obtaining your credit report, get three different highlighted markers. Read through the report and highlight all open accounts listed as joint, use a different color highlighter to mark all accounts listed as authorized user, and yet a different highlighter to mark all accounts listed as individual in your name only.

You will want to make sure that all joint credit cards, loans, and indebtedness accounts are closed post-divorce and are so noted in the divorce Judgement and Decree. Closing the accounts does not release you as a joint owner from the liability to pay remaining outstanding balances. It is critical to remember that even though the divorce decree may place responsibility for debt repayment on certain accounts to your spouse, you will remain liable to the creditor/lender should your spouse default on the payments. Even late payments could show up on future credit reports affecting your own credit score. Ideally on any joint debt accounts you will want your spouse to either pay these debts off in full or refinance the outstanding debt in their own name with their own new accounts.

You will also want to address any accounts where you are listed as an authorized user. An authorized user has the same liability as a joint owner for any indebtedness on the account. The sort of gotcha on these types of accounts is that an authorized user is not always able to close the account.

Any individual accounts held by you will be your responsibility to repay. I always recommend that to the extent possible attempt to emerge from the divorce with as little consumer debt as you can. Doing so will allow you to maximize your cash flow to meet your current living expenses and hopefully save for future goals.

Keeping an eye on your credit and following these few simple steps can go a long way to helping you protect your credit, your credit score, and give you confidence to maximize your cash flow. Divorce as painful as it can be also creates opportunities to start anew.

Mike MillerABOUT THE AUTHOR
Mike Miller

Mike Miller guides people through some of life’s toughest transitions including divorce (or as stated by an 8 year old, “getting unmarried”). Going through a painful divorce himself after a 32 year, marriage changed his life. Mike now helps couples make sense of the financial issues for them and their children. His approach is family centered and he emphasizes, “People always come before numbers.” Mike specializes in working with people in transition, helping them create and design the rest of their life so they can live it to the fullest.

He is a Certified Financial Planner™, professional and past president of the Financial Planning Association of Minnesota. Mike completed family mediation training at Hamline University School of Law Mediation Center and is a qualified neutral under Rule 114 of the Minnesota Rules of Practice. The Minnesota Statewide ADR-Rule 114 Neutrals Roster is published by the State Court Administrators Office. Visit his website at www.Integrashieldfinancial.com to learn more.

Registered Representative, Securities offered through Cambridge Investment Research, Inc. a Broker/Dealer, Member FINRA/SIPC. Investment Advisor Representative, Cambridge Investment Research Advisors, Inc., a Registered Investment Advisor. Integra Shield Financial Group LLC and Cambridge are not affiliated. Neither Cambridge nor Integra Shield Financial Group offers legal advice. Individuals are advised to and should rely upon their professional legal advisors.

Integra Shield Financial Group
3181 Fernbrook Ln
Plymouth, MN 55447

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