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Topics addressed on April 19, 2006:
Keep paying debts on time during a divorce
I have a great credit score so far and I'd like to keep it that way, but my husband and I have separated, and he is not a very responsible person when it comes to paying his own personal bills. Most of the time I have to pay for his bills to make sure my credit won't go bad. If I stop paying his personal bills, will it affect my credit and my current loan interest rates, etc. before we get a divorce? Should I get a divorce first? I just can’t keep paying his bills anymore. I will have big financial problems.
Going through a divorce is very difficult. Financial issues, particularly credit, make it even harder. Sadly, a vindictive or irresponsible spouse can make it worse.
All too often, one spouse decides to hurt the other by piling up credit card debt, thinking they will leave their former husband or wife straddled with debt. But, they actually are hurting themselves, as well.
High balances and unpaid debts for joint accounts will appear on both individuals’ credit histories leaving not only a ruined marriage, but also ruined credit histories for both.
Your current loan interest rates could be affected if you miss payments. To find out, check your contract with the lender. In some cases, credit contracts specify that if you miss payments the interest rate can be increased automatically. Late payments almost certainly will affect your ability to obtain new credit in the future.
A divorce decree does not separate responsibility for the debts with your lenders. A divorce decree is simply an agreement with the court as to which of you will take over the payments. You have to have the lender change your contract to remove your obligation for the debt.
For that reason, it is best that you continue to pay those bills if they are joint accounts with your soon-to-be ex-husband. You are as responsible for charges on joint accounts as he is, even if it is for something he bought for his personal use.
By contract, joint account holders agree to repay the debt of the other person does not. Therefore, joint accounts appear on both your credit history and his.
If possible, close the accounts to further charges so that he cannot continue to amass debt. Work with the lenders to remove you from responsibility and to make him wholly responsible for the debts. Unfortunately, your lenders may be reluctant to do so if your ex-husband cannot repay the debt alone.
It is also a good idea to keep at least one credit card in your name only so that you have an established credit history.
Talk to him if you can, and share this information. You are both hurting, but you both will be hurting worse if he continues his reckless credit behavior.
Thanks for asking.
- The "Ask Experian" team