How to Rebuild Your Credit Score After a Divorce
The end of a marriage means many things – there may be relief, sadness, grief, and mixed emotions of all kinds. But one thing is certain: there are also a number of practical matters to address. One of those is figuring out finances, including your credit score.
Divorce is often cited as one of the leading causes of a bad credit score. This is often because when a marriage ends, credit reports are the last thing many people are thinking about. But just because you are divorced, it doesn’t mean your credit reports are divorced, too.
Years after the final divorce papers are signed, your spouse’s name might still be on your credit report, and vice versa.
It’s important to sort out your credit and make sure you have separated your finances as well as your belongings. Here are a few things to do if you find that a divorce has left your credit score in the limited or poor range:
- Get copies of your credit reports. Request them from all three major credit bureaus as well as FICO. The ones to look for are Equifax, TransUnion and Experian. Go to annualcreditreport.com for a free yearly credit report, or sign up for a credit monitoring service that will give you copies of your credit report plus access to your credit score and other credit services. Take a close look at all your credit reports and the accounts listed on them. If your spouse’s name still appears on any accounts where it should not, contact the account issuer in writing. Some joint accounts may need to be closed in order to remove your spouse’s name. But the first step is to know what is on the reports and make a list of information that needs to be removed or changed.
- Contact your former spouse. Ask him or her to remove you as an authorized user on any credit cards that you may have been listed on. Cut up those cards and contact the issuer to make sure they are no longer reporting to credit bureaus under your name. Also remove your spouse as an authorized user on any cards they may still have. Ask them to destroy or surrender the card to you. Even if you have removed them as an authorized user, if they still have the card, they will be able to use it unless you ask the credit issuer to change your account number and reissue the card. If your ex is not cooperative, call the card issuer and have them change the account number.
- Monitor your accounts. Stay vigilant to make sure information you have requested to be removed is actually removed. For the next several years at least, it’s a good idea to take a good look at your credit report several times a year. Make sure your spouse’s activity is not being reported under your name and no new accounts are opened with your information. Everyone should look at his or her credit report at least once a year, but if you are trying to repair a bad credit score due to divorce, you should check it more often.
Once you’ve done these things, be sure to continue making on-time payments to all your credit cards. Call and request to enroll in a payment plan if you have cards you have fallen behind on. With time, patience, and consistent payments, your credit will be back in the good range soon.
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