Your credit score number sticks with you, popping up often whether you’re applying for a loan, a credit card, or purchasing/renting a home. It’s a number that you can’t escape, and many companies will associate your credit score as either negative or positive depending on the number.
Having a low credit score can be stressful, as it impacts life decisions such as buying a car, owning a home, taking out a loan, or applying for a credit card. There is also a lot of misinformation when it comes to credit scores and how they affect your future and spending habits.
If you’ve recently divorced or are going through the divorce process, you’ll want to increase your credit score as you separate your finances from your spouse. Whether your number is lower or higher, there are some measures you can take to increase it. Keep reading to learn some tips for increasing your credit score after divorce.
What is a Credit Score?
Before we share some tips for increasing your credit score, let’s first discuss what a credit score is. A credit score is a three-digit number that essentially represents how good you are at borrowing money and paying your bills on time. A credit score ranges from 300 to 850, with 300 considered a poor credit score and 850 considered exceptional.
Three credit bureaus calculate credit scores: Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. Your credit score is calculated by taking your financial and personal information and compiling it into a credit report. Information like your former and current name and address(es) are included in a credit report, along with financial information like loans, closed and open credit cards, and whether or not you have any bills that are in collections, bankruptcies, and leans. Credit reports do not show information like marriages and divorces.
Credit scores are ever-changing, however, you are entitled to one free annual credit report from AnnualCreditReport.com. Each time a lender checks your credit score it could affect it, therefore you’ll want to take advantage of the one free annual credit report you are entitled to. Knowing and monitoring your credit score is important – it can even help prevent identity theft.
Does a Divorce Affect a Credit Score?
While the act of getting divorced does not affect a credit score, the closing of joint accounts can affect it. If you shared financial accounts like credit cards, bank accounts, and loans with your former spouse then your credit score may be affected.
When couples who share finances divorce, there are often closing of old accounts and opening of new accounts through various banks and lenders, all actions that affect your credit history, therefore, affecting your credit score. Even though you’re divorcing or have divorced your former spouse, any financial information you shared with your spouse will be included on your credit report. Bank accounts, loans, credit cards, and liens shared with your former spouse, even if you’re an authorized user, will appear on your credit report even if you divorce and close the account. While marriage and name changes do not affect credit scores, any accounts you previously shared with your former spouse will be included.
Tips for Increasing Your Credit Score
Know Your Credit Score
To improve your credit score, you’ll need to know what your starting number is. If you haven’t already, take advantage of the free annual credit report you’re entitled to each year. Knowing your starting number will give you something to work with and will help you set a goal in terms of what you’d like to increase your credit score to postdivorce. Be sure to check your credit report annually to ensure you are increasing it.
Remove Yourself From Accounts Associated With Your Former Spouse
As previously mentioned, any open and closed financial accounts you shared with your former spouse will appear on your credit report. Removing yourself from these accounts is one step you can take to start improving your credit score. Whether you opened the account with your former spouse or are an authorized user, be sure to remove yourself from all accounts. If you’re not sure where to begin, contact your lender and explain to them that you’re now divorced and they’ll guide you in the right direction.
Live on a Budget
One of the best things you can do to improve your credit score postdivorce is to establish and live on a budget. Living on a budget will ensure that you don’t spend more than you’re making, allowing you to pay your bills on time. Be sure to set aside money for your payments each month to ensure you stay on top of all money owed and don’t fall behind.
Establish New Accounts
You’ve most likely closed or removed yourself from joint accounts with your former spouse which means you may not have many active accounts postdivorce. Open up a new savings and checking account at a bank or a local credit union using your maiden name (or even your married name if you’ve kept it). You’ll want to ensure your former spouse is not associated with any accounts moving forward to increase your credit score.
Pay Your Bills on Time
Missed payments will show up on your credit report, so you’ll want to make sure you’re paying your bills on time every time. Whether you have credit cards, a cell phone bill, utilities, or any other account that requires monthly payments, be sure to stay on top of them. Paying your bills on time every time is a huge step in the right direction, one that will improve your credit score.
While the act of getting divorced doesn’t directly impact your credit score, closing joint accounts will. Following the tips above will improve your credit score over time. Again, be sure to take advantage of the free annual credit report you’re entitled to through AnnualCreditReport.com.
If you’re currently going through a divorce or if you’re searching for a divorce attorney or a family attorney in Lee’s Summit, the family law attorneys at The Law Office of Young, Kuhl & Frick, LLC can help. We’re dedicated to the practice of family law and can help guide you through any family law matter keeping your best interests in mind. With over fifty-four years of combined legal experience, our family law firm is comprised of a team that’s skilled in both negotiation and litigation, handling family law matters from the most complex to the most straightforward.
We have offices in Lee’s Summit, Missouri, and Leawood, Kansas (consultations by appointment only). In addition to our two physical locations, our firm’s family and divorce attorneys have practiced in Jackson, Clay, Cass, Lafayette, and Platte County, Missouri as well as Johnson County, Kansas. Contact our family law firm today to schedule a consultation – we’re able to meet in person or face-to-face via Zoom.