10/5/2011 5:34 PM ET|
Could an ex-spouse ruin your credit?
Divorce can often lead to money meltdowns, but these strategies can help minimize the fallout and keep your finances intact.
Divorce can wreak havoc on a person's finances, especially if it involves dealing with formerly shared assets, debts and credit cards.
As Candace Bahr, co-founder of the nonprofit Women's Institute for Financial Education, puts it, "No matter how much money you get, you have half the income and half the assets you had previously," because the income is now spread over two households instead of one.
Not surprisingly, divorce is one of the most common causes of bankruptcy. Here are strategies for keeping your finances solvent long after your marriage isn't.
- Get your credit report. Examining your credit report for inaccuracies is especially important after a major life event, such as divorce, particularly if you will soon be taking out a new home or car loan. Errors on the report can lower your credit score and keep you from getting prime interest rates.
- Separate your credit from that of your former spouse. If you are still registered as a co-owner of the credit card your ex-spouse uses, you will continue to be liable for any charges on it. Post-divorce credit problems, which are common, can usually be avoided by closing joint accounts. "The safe thing to do is to cancel all the cards and make both spouses get cards in their own names," says Evan Hendricks, the author of "Credit Scores & Credit Reports."
- Examine your debt. Debt -- especially debt from multiple sources -- can quickly become overwhelming after divorce lowers monthly income. Estimate your post-divorce income and calculate what you can afford to pay. If current obligations exceed that amount, cut back on spending. If it's too late and you find yourself in a deep credit hole, options include debt settlement and filing for bankruptcy, both of which will stay on your credit report for seven to 10 years and temporarily lower your score.
- If you must file for bankruptcy, start rebuilding your credit soon. Neil Colmenares, a New York bankruptcy attorney, recommends taking out two credit cards and paying them off in full each month. Barring any other debts, after one year your credit score "should be pretty good," he says. One banking industry secret, he adds, is that some creditors prefer to lend to recent bankruptcy filers, because they are barred from filing again for eight years and are liable for new debts.
- Think positively. Most people's credit eventually improves after filing for bankruptcy, because debts are cleared to give them a clean slate. Says Mark Scarberry, a Pepperdine University law professor and scholar-in-residence at the American Bankruptcy Institute, "Recognize that the fresh start is a gift. Take advantage of it." Some might say the same about their divorce.
Then, if the divorced spouse decides to walk down the aisle again, he or she can take some steps to prevent another financial disaster in case the relationship goes south. Kathleen Miller, the author of "Fair Share Divorce for Women" and president of Miller Advisors, an investment firm in Kirkland, Wash., suggests keeping separate accounts, especially for couples with children from previous marriages.
Many second marriages fail because of money matters, Miller says. That's why she recommends that remarrying clients have an open discussion about finances and enter into a prenuptial agreement. Those with children to protect will probably want to draw up wills specifying where their assets will go when they die.
Separate accounts also protect women who earn less money than their husbands in case of divorce, Miller adds. She recommends that a wife without an income, for example, establish her own retirement account using a spousal IRA, which allows a nonearning partner to save money in his or her own name, using the spouse's income. While retirement savings would probably be considered jointly owned in the case of divorce, Miller says it's still important for both partners to have some savings in their own names.
Bahr points out that marriages don't last forever. "Even in the best marriages, one spouse is going to die. So it's still important to maintain your own identity," she says. She recommends keeping assets, retirement accounts and credit in one's own name. If one spouse is completely responsible for the finances, that leaves the other vulnerable in the case of death or divorce, she says.
That's an easy point for anyone who's already experienced one divorce to understand.
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What I want to know is why this article is focused on the "damage" done to women, most of the time the "ruination" is "done" to the man......
I can't think of anything that can ruin your credit MORE than an "EX".
Yup....it's cheaper and easier for your money and credit.
You can rent one for even less then the $200 and no mouth and no hassel.
AND you will always have what's yours not half.........
But if you get married....make sure every credit card is only in the name of the user.....................
It's called divorce...been there, gone through that.
I'll NEVER get married again, unless SHE'S the one with the money!!
American women are no longer submissive to men. We were not put on this earth to service men and to be treated inferior.
Men need to start thinking with the head on their shoulders and stop thinking with the head in their pants. That would solve the problem in a heartbeat.
American women of all races, RULE and if you don't like it maybe you should move to a third world country where women are still oppressed. But, when they get angry, they just wait until you are sleeping and amputate your penis! Have fun!
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