While divorce proceedings can be stressful and time-consuming, there’s a huge amount of relief that comes after everything is said and done. After all, divorce marks the end of one chapter and the start of a new one.
There’s only one thing that might be holding you back from your new life – your credit history. It might be overwhelming to deal with the aftermath of a divorce, but every good financial decision will put you one step closer to your goals.
Review Your Financial Standing
First and foremost you want to know where you stand financially after a divorce. Take some time to review your accounts. Request a credit report from all three credit bureaus and find out exactly what is affecting your credit. This will give you some perspective of both the good and the bad and enable you to start forming a plan for repair.
Take Care of any Remaining Joint Accounts
You’ll never have complete control of your financial standing while you still have open accounts with your former spouse. Your ex’s actions – or lack thereof – will only continue affecting your score following a divorce. Make a note of all personal accounts as well as joint accounts that weren’t addressed in your divorce decree. Consider refinancing, consolidation, and balance transfer options to separate accounts into the responsible parties’ names. This will take some cooperation between you and your former spouse. If necessary, talk with your lawyer about seeking mediation on separating joint accounts.
Balance Your Budget
After a split, it may take time to adjust to your new income-to-expense story. During this adjustment period, it’s important to stay current on all your current accounts. Maintaining good credit history is the key to saving your credit after a divorce. If you weren’t previously responsible for bill pay, this may take some getting used to. Identify your priorities, create a budget, and start tracking your spending. This will give you an idea if you need to cut back in certain areas or start exploring what’s out there in the workforce to prevent you from falling behind.
Establish Credit Independently
When it comes to building credit on your own, you want to start small and build up. Start by getting a credit card with a small limit. Only use your card for bills that you’ve already outlined in your budget and always pay them on time. Be careful of running up any debt that you can’t afford to pay. After 6 months, apply for another car and continue paying bills consistently. If you’re not ready for a card on your own, try applying for a secured credit card. Secured cards are typically backed by your savings account, therefore more financially secure than an open line of credit. Build a positive credit history for a few months before venturing out on your own.
Rebuild a Positive Credit History
After a divorce, you can pick up the pieces and start fresh over a positive credit report. Your most recent bill-paying behavior (18 to 24) is the most important to decide whether you are a good credit risk. Even a single late payment can affect your ability to get a mortgage. Keep your credit balances low (less than 30%) and always make more than your minimum payment. This shows responsibility and reliability when it comes to your accounts, which lenders love to see.
Bankruptcy – A Last Resort
If you are simply in over your head consider bankruptcy, but only as a last resort. Bankruptcy is not an easy way out and there’s no guaranteeing a judgment will be granted in your favor. And even if you do a bankruptcy has implications on your credit score for up to 10 years. During this time you may find it difficult, or even impossible to find a new mortgage or personal loan.