||Ask Dr. Don
Divorce & credit
Dear Dr. Don,
My credit rating is in the dumps because of my soon-to-be ex-husband.
Is there a way to fix my rating now without having to wait for the
final divorce papers to be signed?
You can't fix your rating overnight, but you can take steps to stop
the situation from getting any worse. Start by getting a copy of
your credit report. It will show the credit accounts where you are
an authorized user, a joint account holder or an individual account
In community-property states married couples are,
in general, jointly responsible for the debts they take on during
their marriage. The community-property states are: Arizona, California,
Idaho, Louisiana, Nevada, New Mexico, Texas, Washington, and Wisconsin.
In these states the distinction between authorized user, joint and
individual accounts isn't particularly relevant to your obligations
for repaying the debt.
You can ask but you can't force a creditor to change
a joint account to an individual account. They extended you credit
with the provision that you would both be responsible parties and
a divorce decree doesn't change the credit agreement.
Keep paying on time and at least the minimum payment
on any account where you share responsibility for that credit. An
account has to have a zero balance to be permanently closed, but
the primary account holder can ask the creditor to close the account
to new purchases.
If he's an authorized user on any account where you
are the primary account holder, ask the creditor to remove his name
as an authorized user. If they won't do that, then either close
the account or ask that the account be closed to new purchases.
The Federal Trade Commissions guide, Credit
and Divorce, states: "By law, a creditor cannot close a
joint account because of a change in marital status, but can do
so at the request of either spouse. A creditor, however, does not
have to change joint accounts to individual accounts.
"The creditor can require you to reapply for
credit on an individual basis and then, based on your new application,
extend or deny you credit. In the case of a mortgage or home equity
loan, a lender is likely to require refinancing to remove a spouse
from the obligation."
-- Posted: May 21, 2002