How your ex could destroy your credit

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When you're building a relationship, building joint credit feels like a natural rung on the ladder. But if the romance happens to sour, that same joint credit can become the backbone of financial devastation.

Scores of the newly divorced, separated or uncoupled who have co-signed for cars and leases or have joint plastic tucked in their wallets are left holding all -- or most of -- these financial bags post breakup. And those bags can get pretty heavy.

"That means someone may be stuck trying to make payments he or she can't afford," says Dan Danford, principal and chief executive officer at Family Investment Center, a commission-free investment management firm in St. Joseph. And that can impact your credit.

Even though few people enter a relationship with the intention of ruining their new mate's credit, many experience this unfortunate outcome of uncoupling. "Beyond not being able to pay your own bills, an ex not paying his or her share of joint accounts can be especially dangerous," says Danford. "Normally, a person knows they're not paying their own bills. But it's common for people to not know an ex hasn't paid until they're served a summons or being hounded by collection agencies." Which means months of late or missed payments have already been reported to credit bureaus and lowered your score.

"I had no idea my ex wasn't paying off the bills he agreed to take on after we split up," says Chloe Martin of Chicago, Illinois. "I found out by accident, when I tried to make an appointment at the vet's office and was told the account had been sent to collection."