Protect Yourself in Divorce: Close Those Joint Accounts!

By Janet Hutchins on Feb 10, 2012 | Filed in Debt

While many people think of Valentine’s Day as a day of love, this day doesn’t mean the same to everyone. And, indeed, many couples split during the weeks leading up to Valentine’s Day. If you are going through a split, it’s important to make sure you close join accounts — and accounts where your soon-to-be ex is an “authorised user.” Otherwise, you might find yourself saddle with someone else’s debt.

Closing Your Joint Accounts

One of the most important things you can do as you prepare your finances for a split is to close accounts with both your names on them. When you both have access to the accounts, it can mean that your ex can drain a bank account, or run up credit card bills in your name. If you have a credit card with your almost-ex partner added as someone who is authorised, he or she can still use that card. And, since it’s in your name, with his or her name only “authorised” to use it, you are responsible.

There are ways to apportion debt during a divorce, and it’s best to do what you can to pay off joint debt with joint assets. But, before you start parceling out assets and debts, it’s important to put a lockdown on accounts, so that one person isn’t causing problems for another. As soon as you know that you will be splitting, close joint accounts and work out other arrangements for paying bills. As long as you have the accounts jointly, either one of you can drain the bank account. And once that money’s gone, it’s difficult to get back.

And, if you have credit cards, it’s important to make sure that these are taken care of as well. Make sure you close all of the credit card accounts with your ex’s name on them — you don’t want your ex to suddenly start using them a year or two down the road, causing an unpleasant surprise.

Protect Your Credit

It’s important to make sure that your finances become as separate as possible as quickly as possible. If you still have joint accounts later — especially credit cards — it can cause you credit problems. A joint credit card, or a credit card with your ex as an authorised user, can be used if it’s not closed, and it can damage your credit. When you go to get a home loan or other type of loan, you might find that your credit score has been compromised, and that you are unable to get the terms that are best.

In any case, before you apply for any credit, be sure to check your credit report ahead of time. Indeed, it might be a good idea to check your credit report regularly, especially after your split. That way, you can keep tabs on what is happening. If your ex is still opening credit or using credit in your name, you can use your credit report as a way to catch it.