Q. My husband and I are divorcing. He was awful with money and that’s part of the reason we’re splitting. I’ve never had a credit card on my own, and I finally got my first checking account. What can I do to get on a good financial road, and will I be responsible for his debts?
A. We’re sorry to hear you’re having these troubles, but we’re glad you’re trying to be proactive.
There are several issues here: how your credit ties into his credit, and what you need to do about your credit for the future.
Unfortunately, in most cases the debt that he has incurred will be considered marital debt, for which you will both be responsible, said David Carton, a certified matrimonial law attorney and member with Mandelbaum Salsburg in Roseland.
“I would suggest gathering the credit card records or other proof of debt,” he said. “If you can show that he recklessly incurred debt that did not benefit the marriage, it may help when it comes to dividing the responsibility of the payments.”
Carton said if your husband has been terrible with money in the past, it is likely he would continue this in the future.
Your credit is very important and if his actions have negatively impacted it, you need to rectify this as soon as possible.
“If you are concerned about him continuing to accrue debt I would suggest filing a divorce complaint as soon as possible,” he said. “In general, once a divorce complaint is filed, any assets or liabilities that either of you acquire in your own names are the possession or responsibility of the party acquiring it or incurring it, as opposed to the debt that has already been incurred.”
Next, run a credit report on yourself — not just a score but a full credit report — and have your husband do the same, Carton said.
You can do that by going to AnnualCreditReport.com, the website you can use to order all three of your reports from the major credit bureaus — Equifax, Experian and TransUnion — or call (877) 322-8229,
Everyone is entitled to a free credit report from each of the three major credit bureaus once every 12 months.
The credit reports should show all open credit cards or other liabilities so you know what debts exist and in what amount, he said. This way, you can account for everything in the scope of your divorce agreement.
To start on your road to financial independence, Carton said, make sure that in the scope of the divorce all debts are paid off or transferred entirely out of your name.
Then, open your own bank account and get your own credit card, and be sure that you do not default on any financial obligation or overdraw your account, he said.
“In short, get yourself out of this situation before it worsens, protect yourself from the debt that currently exists and start building your new life and quality credit,” he said.
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