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5 steps to protect credit in a divorce

Take stock of your debts and credit lines
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Take stock of your debts and credit lines

If you've been married for two decades, chances are you've forgotten about all the accounts you may share with your spouse such as an unused home equity line of credit or a Sears credit card you opened seven Christmases ago.

To jog your memory, pull your credit report to see the accounts you have. Note the ones listed as individual, joint or authorized user accounts.

An individual account in your name means you're solely responsible for the debt, unless you live in a community property state. In community property states such as Texas and Arizona, any debts acquired during the marriage and within those states are considered jointly owned. A joint account means you and your spouse share responsibility for paying off any debt on that account. An authorized user means the account is held individually by one person who allows another to use the card, but not be responsible for the balance.

Not every lender or creditor reports to the credit bureaus, so you still may miss some accounts. One spouse forgot about a line of credit she had with her dentist until her ex-husband spent $5,000 in dental work one afternoon, says Laura Creamer, a financial education specialist with CredAbility.

"He was an authorized user on that account, so she had to pay it off," Creamer says.


 

 

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