Five steps for cleaning up your credit after divorce

One reader recently wrote:

"Since the country has recognized the banking hardships being faced today, I have received two notices reducing my credit limit on my cards to the amount that I presently owe. My maximum's on both of these cards was double what they reduced it to. I recently got a divorce and my credit file is full of bills and statements that are attributable to my ex-husband, however, I haven't had a chance to sit down, go through the list and make the corrections. I am not late, I pay these cards on time, and feel extremely angry about their arbitrary action."

Unfortunately, I hear this problem too often. Even if you are just an authorized user on the outstanding credit cards, the credit card companies can include the record on your credit report. When you know you are separating from a spouse, the first thing you should do is contact all your credit card companies, tell them about the pending divorce, ask that they freeze any joint accounts (which means no new charges will be allowed) and ask that your name be removed as an authorized user on any accounts under your spouse's name.

Separating your financial entanglements as soon as possible is critical as soon as you start a divorce process. Don't wait until the divorce is final. You could be held responsible for any debts your spouse runs up during the divorce process if you don't notify the creditors on accounts you hold jointly.If you are facing a problem similar to the one of our reader above, you must take the time as soon as possible to clean up your credit history. Here are the steps:

1. Get a copy of your credit report from all three credit reporting agencies. You can do that for free at

2. Contact all creditors on that report that list accounts you no longer use. If you are an authorized user on your ex-spouse's credit cards, ask the creditor to remove your name and to stop reporting your name to the credit bureaus as a user on that account. You will need to notify them that you are divorced.

3. If you find any accounts for which you have no responsibility or are not an authorized user, contact the credit reporting bureaus and notify them that the account is not yours and should be removed from your report. When you get your free credit report copy the credit reporting agencies will give you instructions for how to correct the listings.

4.When the credit reporting agencies complete corrections to your report they should send you a corrected copy. Check it again for accounts that should not be there and send additional corrections if necessary.

5. Once you know your reports are clear, recheck your credit score. it could take a few months to get back to where it was, but once you have a score over 700 call any creditors who lowered your available credit and ask them to reconsider.

Lita Epstein has written more than 25 books including the "Complete Idiot's Guide to Improving Your Credit Score."
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