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Keep an eye on joint accounts during divorce

For many couples, one of the most difficult parts of divorce is separating your financial lives, which may have been intertwined for years, if not decades. Most couples have at least one if not multiple joint bank accounts and credit cards. It's essential to keep an eye on all of those joint accounts during the separation and divorce process or for as long as your name is still on them for a couple of key reasons.

First, people have been known to empty out joint bank accounts, leaving their estranged spouses in serious financial straits. Some also rack up serious credit card debt, impacting their spouse's available credit for all the things they need to buy as they begin their new life.

If your spouse is doing either of these things, talk to your Massachusetts family law attorney. He or she can work to get a court order to prevent excessive transactions on joint accounts.

Another impact of having a spouse run up credit card bills or wreak havoc on your finances is how it will impact your credit score. You'll need a good credit score if you are planning to buy a home of your own, a new car or even if you rent an apartment.

It's essential to keep an eye on any joint financial products (savings, investments, loans and credit cards) that you have. It's also necessary to get your credit reports to make sure that your scores are in good shape. Ideally, it's best to do that several times throughout and after the divorce process. The three reporting agencies allow you to get a free report annually.

While it may seem like the best solution is to remove your name from all of your joint credit cards right away, it's probably not. These cards are part of your credit history. If you've maintained them in good standing, that's beneficial to your credit score.

Many couples split up their credit cards in the divorce, with each taking their name off of one or more. When doing that, determine which cards best suit your needs and work to retain your name on those. You may, however, want to change the credit card numbers on those cards to prevent unauthorized use by your spouse or anyone else in his or her life.

With the help of your attorney and perhaps a divorce financial planner, you can come out of your divorce with your credit and your economic situation strong as you begin your newly-single life.

Source: NerdWallet, "How to Assess Your Credit Card Needs After Divorce," Virginia C. McGuire, April 13, 2017

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