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Preserving your credit rating is one of the most important things that you will deal with during and after divorce. Credit ratings are critical, not only to your ability to establish future credit, but to gain future employment. Virtually all employers check on the credit history of any prospective employee even before extending an offer for an interview.

Fathers for Equal Rights urges its members who are entering divorce litigation to obtain a copy of their own credit report, and to determine what debt and payment history is actually reported. Often, our members are surprised to discover that their spouse has quietly obtained numerous credit accounts and accrued thousands of dollars of debt, without his knowledge!

There are many credit reporting agencies in the United States here are a few:

  • www.experian.com 888-397-3742
  • www.equifax.com 800-685-1111
  • www.transunion.com 800-916-8800

You can get a copy of your joint credit report annually for free. Go to https://www.annualcreditreport.com/cra/index.jsp. Over 1,000 local credit bureaus operate across the continent, linked to the computer systems of the big three. By obtaining a copy of your joint credit report from one of these three agencies, you will get a reasonably accurate picture of who your creditors are, how much debt exists, and your payment history as reported by your creditors-exactly the same picture at which new creditors and would be employers look.

If you find debts that you are not aware of, request a copy of the original application with the signature. If it is not your signature, contact your local police department and FBI identity theft units. Also tell the credit bureau that you are disputing those accounts. Do so in writing making sure to keep a copy for your records. In your final order, you will want these accounts listed as the other person?s debt.

WHAT ABOUT THE DIVORCE DECREE?

The State Bar of Texas' standard form for the Final Decree of Divorce contains provisions for the Family Court to distribute the family debts. You will want to review Division of Debts and instruct your attorney to ensure that the Decree of Divorce includes separate paragraphs for "Debts to Petitioner" and "Debts to Respondent", itemizing (by account number) which debts each of you will be responsible for. You will want to make certain that the attorney who writes the Final (or Agreed) Decree of Divorce adds a clause for each you, specifying that each party will be responsible for any charge accounts, debts, liabilities, and obligations incurred by themselves without the other party's knowledge and consent.

It is important to understand, however, that the Decree of Divorce does not relieve you of the responsibly for debts and obligations that were incurred jointly by yourself and your former spouse, even though the court may award some of those debts to your spouse. The distribution of debts in the Decree is more a matter of intent, than an enforceable edict. If your former spouse later defaults on the jointly incurred obligations, the creditors can still require you to be responsible for them. This may also be true for obligations that your spouse incurred as individual accounts, with your knowledge and consent. Hence, the importance of notifying creditors as early as possible that you will not be responsible for individual accounts acquired without your knowledge and consent. It should be readily apparent to the reader that, following a divorce, it is desirable to obtain your own credit report every few months, just to see what is being reported, and to make certain that none of the former spouse's individual obligations are showing-up on your credit report and to ensure that the former spouse is not defaulting on obligations that are legally in both names- thereby putting "dings" in your credit report.

The sooner you can get your name separated from your former souse's, with regard to debt obligations, the less likely that the ex's future credit problems will mar your credit record. If inaccurate information or information pertaining to the other person's individual accounts begins to surface in your report, you can file a written dispute with the credit bureau, requesting that the faulty information be removed. However, nobody can cause accurate negative information to be removed from your report, if it pertains to accounts for which you are liable. So, beware of companies that claim to be able to repair bad credit records (for a fee). At best, they can do only what you can do for yourself, with a little time and effort.

SHOULD I FILE FOR BANKRUPTCY?

Because of the long-lasting and far-reaching effects of bankruptcy, that solution should be considered only as a last resort. Sometimes, getting the debts under control can be easier with little help. There are some services that purport to help with credit but businesses look at them the same as declaring bankruptcy. Primerica Financial Services offers debt elimination and financial analysis for no monetary fee.

There are several locations in the area in the white pages, call the office nearest you.

It's so good to find an organization like Fathers For Equal Rights that has experience going back to 1974!
  -- Chuck H. - Fort Worth, TX

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