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Joint accounts could jeopardize your credit after divorce

It's natural for married couples to have joint credit cards, co-sign on auto loans and otherwise mingle credit. Once you decide to divorce, however, untangling your financial lives can become complicated — and even more so if your spouse starts abusing credit lines or failing to pay bills in a timely manner.

Here are several actions you can take to protect your credit from your ex.

1. Check your credit report

You want to know that your ex did not start skipping payments on a joint debt. So, it is important to continue to watch for missed payments on all joint lines of credit until you are no longer tied to him or her through these accounts.

2. Close joint accounts

Not only should you close all your joint accounts, but you should also ask your spouse to remove your name from any accounts that include you as an authorized user, and remove him or her as an authorized user from yours.

3. Change passwords

Your spouse may not have authorization, but could still access your credit card or bank account if he or she has the number and password. Request a new number and card from the credit card company, and change all your passwords and PINs.

4. Take your name off titles and loans

If one of you keeps the house, it will probably take refinancing to remove the other from the mortgage. In fact, the lender is likely to require it.

Make sure you are no longer on the title of motor vehicles that go to your spouse in the settlement, as well. Sharing ownership on paper could put you in legal trouble if your ex causes an accident and someone sues.

5. Ask your attorney

The judge may determine that one or more joint debts should be your spouse's responsibility. If he or she does not remove your name as requested, the failure to comply could be contempt. Your divorce attorney can help you take legal steps to enforce the judge’s order.

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