5 steps to protect credit in a divorce
Untangle joint accounts if possible
The task of separating joint accounts where both spouses are responsible is more complicated.
"Many people don't understand that a divorce decree doesn't change the contract you have with your lender," says Rod Griffin, director of public education at Experian. "The only way to remove yourself (from a joint account) is going through the lender."
Griffin recommends paying off any joint accounts and closing them before going into the divorce. If that's not possible, try to turn joint accounts into individual ones. For example, transfer the balance of one credit card to another that is in one spouse's name only and close the joint account. Or, try to refinance a mortgage into one spouse's name.
If you can't split the accounts, divide the responsibilities of the joint debt. The person who lives in the house takes on the mortgage. The spouse who gets the car gets the auto loan, too. Spell out the arrangements in the divorce agreement. Include what-if scenarios to protect yourself. For instance, if your spouse is going to miss a payment on joint debt, he or she must notify you in advance, so you can make the payment and avoid denting your credit.