So when ending a marriage, it’s important to double-check that all of your accounts are in line with your divorce decree, which should address responsibility for debt, says Rod Griffin, senior director of public education at Experian. That can mean refinancing a jointly held mortgage and removing an authorized user from credit cards. Divorce judgments also sometimes contain a “indemnity clause”, in which a spouse agrees that you will not be held liable for debts, even if they were originally in your name. Hormachea could use it to get her ex-spouse to pay the $ 20,000 she’s now liable for, says loan expert John Ulzheimer, who testifies often in these cases. However, this is easy to avoid, he says, accusing a “poor divorce attorney for failing to identify joint liability and not doing anything about it during the divorce.”
So what should Hormachea do now to fix the problem? Go on the offensive, say the experts.
1. Pull out all credit reports.
Look for the culpable debts and other debts as well. The three major credit bureaus – Experian, Equifax and TransUnion – are making free reports available weekly through next April on annualcreditreport.com.
2. Contact the lender.
Hormachea should explain her situation and see if the lender can delete her name from the account, says Ulzheimer. In this case, she should send her written confirmation.
3. Talk to the debt collector.
If the claim went to a debt collection agency, Hormachea should contact them with a similar request. Success is not guaranteed, warns Ulzheimer. “You’re going to want thousands of dollars.”
4. Review your divorce decree.
Contact an attorney and consider appealing your ex.