How to Build Credit With Your Own Name After Divorce

By: John Hilaire

If you are married, separated, or divorced, and most of the credit you obtained is in your spouse's or ex-spouse's name only, you should start to get credit in your name, too.

Getting credit in your own name is also an excellent strategy for repairing your credit if:

a) All or most of your financial problems can be attributed to your spouse, or

b) you and your spouse have gone through financial difficulties together, but most credit was in your spouse's name only.

In order to understand how this works, you first must learn about which of your spouse's accounts can appear on your report. Here are the rules:

Credit bureaus must include information about your spouse's account on your credit report in two situations: (a) you and your spouse have a joint account (that is, you both can use it), or (b) you are obligated (responsible for paying) on an account belonging to your spouse, even if your spouse is the primary signer on the account.

Credit bureaus cannot include information about your spouse's account on your credit
report if the account is not joint and you are not responsible for paying the account.

This is usually good news if you are worried that your spouse's negative credit history may reflect badly on you - delinquent accounts in your spouse's name only should not appear on your credit report. However, if you are now divorced or separated and had relied primarily on your spouse to obtain credit, so that most loans and credit cards were in your spouse's name only, you won't have a lengthy history of good credit in your report. You now need to start building good credit in your own name. If you are still married, you can start by making sure that all joint accounts and accounts that you are obligated to pay appear on your credit report, too.

Lastly, ask creditors to consider your spouse's credit history. Although a credit bureau cannot include information about your spouse's positive credit accounts on your credit report (unless the account meets one of the two criteria listed above), if you are applying for a loan, credit card, or other type of credit, you can always ask the creditor to consider any of your spouse's accounts that reflect on your creditworthiness, too. For example, if you and your spouse make payments on your spouse's account with joint checks, bring this to the creditor's attention. A creditor doesn't have to consider this information, but it may.

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