How Long Does It Take to Untangle Your Credit After a Divorce?

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This post comes from Gerri Detweiler at partner site Credit.com.

The day you find out your divorce is final may either feel like one of the worst days of your life or a cause for celebration, depending on whether you wanted to stay or go. Either way, it may not be truly over.

In fact, you may still have months — even years — of work ahead of you to clean up the financial detritus of your marriage.

In a recent survey of divorced individuals by Credit.com, 40 percent of respondents said it took them more than six months to separate finances, and for 11 percent of them, it took more than three years.

If you are thinking of splitting up, or have already done so, and you want to move on as quickly as possible (creditwise, at least), here are some steps that can make the process a little easier and faster.

Review your reports

Get your free annual credit reports from each of the three major credit reporting agencies. Reviewing your credit reports isn’t just a suggestion; it’s essential. You need to understand exactly what’s on there and your legal responsibility for all accounts listed.

Are those accounts individual or joint accounts, or are you just an authorized user? It is important to understand your legal responsibility for each one of them.

Account for joint accounts

Closing out joint accounts at the first sign of trouble in your relationship can be a wise move. As long as joint accounts remain open, you are fully responsible for any and all charges made by you and your ex (or soon-to-be ex).

If you’ve already parted ways, you need to have a plan for handling balances left on any joint debts. Do not assume that just because the divorce decree says he or she must pay some or all of those balances that you are off the hook. You are still bound by the agreement you both made when you opened the account.

Monitor your credit monthly

Divorce doesn’t automatically hurt your credit. In the Credit.com survey, not quite half — 46 percent — of respondents said their credit scores improved somewhat or significantly after their divorce. But a significant number did report that their scores dropped. The survey asked:

Which statement best describes how your credit scores have changed since your divorce?

  • Significantly worse — 19 percent.
  • Somewhat worse — 12 percent.
  • Somewhat better — 16 percent.
  • Significantly better — 30 percent.
  • Don’t know — 23 percent.

While you probably feel like you already have enough on your plate as you transition into your new life post-marriage, try to make time to monitor your credit scores so you can spot issues as quickly as possible. You can use a tool like Credit.com’s free Credit Report Card to get two free credit scores that are automatically updated each month.

Separating from someone you once thought you wanted to spend the rest of your life with isn’t easy, but once that decision has been made, separating your finances shouldn’t take forever.

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