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Specialty tag(s): Complex Property

P. Lindley Bain | October 27, 2022

Your credit score and ability to obtain credit can have a significant impact on your life post-divorce. It can affect qualifying for a new credit card, car loan or home loan, refinancing an existing home loan, or establishing a line of credit. Follow these steps to protect your credit score and make your financial future more secure.

Run your credit report during the divorce process.

Examine every credit card item or loan item on your report. Be alert for any credit cards that you might not be unaware of and balances that should be paid in the divorce process. Close all joint credit cards and joint credit accounts before the divorce is final. Address any credit accounts that cannot be closed immediately in the divorce decree, i.e., a car loan or home mortgage. Insert provisions requiring the spouse taking the asset to either refinance or sell it if he or she is unable to refinance the note.

Know that late payments can affect your credit score.

Whether made by you or your spouse, late payments on any credit account in which you are listed as a borrower or authorized user will likely be reported to credit agencies. Remove yourself from any and all accounts in which you are an authorized user and confirm with a letter from the lender or financial institution. Then run your credit report again to make sure it was removed.

Establish credit in your name.

If you are the non-moneyed spouse, apply for a credit card in your name only prior to finalizing the divorce so that you can use your spouse’s income. If you do not have income or enough income post-divorce, you may have difficulty qualifying for a credit card.

Pay off debt as part of your settlement.

Credit card companies look to the debtor for payment and do not consider divorce decrees. Therefore, if the credit card debt is in your name, structure a settlement where the debt is paid off in full at the time of the divorce or you receive other assets to compensate you for taking on that debt. Another option is to have an enforceable secured contractual payment provision in your decree that obligates your spouse to pay you the credit card payoff payments. Then you pay the credit card company directly.

Have an income stream.

If you intend to purchase a home or car or refinance a mortgage, it may be in your best interest to structure your divorce settlement so that you have a continuing income stream from your former spouse in the form of contractual alimony for a period of time. Alimony counts as income in qualifying for credit or a loan.

Weigh current credit card debt against anticipated cash flow.

Due to high-interest rates on credit cards, it may be in your best interest to sell assets or structure a settlement to pay off credit card debt instead of making monthly payments of mostly interest.

Conclusion

Establishing a good credit score is an essential, but often overlooked, part of planning for post-divorce life. Talk with your family lawyer about strategies to protect your credit, and consider consulting with a qualified financial planner to develop a long-term plan. Our Dallas, Plano, and Austin Family Law attorneys are here to help you make the best decisions for your financial future.

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With a background in finance and negotiation, Lindley Bain is exceptionally skilled in the division of complex assets, high-conflict cases, negotiated divorce, pre-and post-nuptial agreements, and divorces that involve mental health issues. She is Board Certified in Family Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization. Lindley has been named to The Best Lawyers in America© in the field of Family Law since 2015 and is also one of the select few attorneys to be named a Fellow of the prestigious American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers. Lindley is the firm’s managing partner, a testament to the respect she has earned from her colleagues and her business and leadership acumen. Lindley practices in Dallas and Austin.