Can A Spouse Ruin My Credit Score?

They say breaking up is hard to do, but can it be hard on your credit score? Unfortunately, the answer can be yes if you are not careful. Many married couples have joint obligations such as a mortgage, car payment, or joint credit accounts with banks and department stores. Technically, the credit of your spouse or family member should have no bearing whatsoever on you, unless you have co-signed for an account and you both fail to meet the terms of the obligation. However, unless you both come to some agreement about how to handle joint accounts before, during, or immediately after the divorce, you may be in for some nasty surprises down the road if your ex decides to be spiteful.

For instance, what if you come home one day and discover that your spouse has run up an exorbitant credit card debt in your name, without your knowledge? You may have a hard time proving that you were not responsible for the debt. If you are the primary card holder, you will probably be held responsible for this unless you can prove that it is a case of outright fraud. For instance, if your ex re-opened the account after your divorce, or forged your signature, that would be a clear cut case of credit card fraud. Even so, you will have to have proof, and will probably need to write a few letters to the bank to get it resolved.

If, on the other hand, you are only an authorized user on the account, but not the primary account holder, then theoretically, the repayment of the credit card debt should not be your responsibility. In that case, you might write a letter to the credit card issuer and demand proof that you owe this debt. If they do not comply, you can file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission, or the State Attorney General.

In addition to disputing the charges, you should also dispute the items on your credit report. It is your right to dispute any inaccurate information with the credit bureau and get it removed from your credit report. Under law, both the credit bureau and the information provider are responsible for correcting any inaccurate information, and must investigate any disputes within 30 days and notify you of a resolution. Mail them a copy of your divorce settlement, along with any other supporting documentation you may have, that proves that the debt is not yours. If you have proof that the card was opened after your divorce settlement, that would be ideal.

You might also want to opt out of receiving any pre-screened offers for credit, to prevent any further accounts being opened without your knowledge. Information on how to do this appears on the websites of the consumer credit reporting bureaus.