Managing Credit

How Can Divorce Affect Your Credit Score?

How Can Divorce Affect Your Credit Score?

Divorce can have a big impact on your personal life, but with the proper planning, you can minimize its effects on your financial life. Even if you maintained separate accounts during your relationship, certain credit ramifications can come with ending a marriage.

While your credit score won’t take a hit simply because you filed for divorce, there are ways your credit can be affected.

1. Understand your new income

Losing one of two household incomes—and shifting from one to two residences—can cause financial strain. Financial implications are even more impactful if one spouse hasn’t been working outside of the home. 

“It’s very tough for most people going through a divorce to make ends meet exactly as they had when there was only one household living off a pot of income rather than two households living off of the same amount of income,” says Lili Vasileff, president of Divorce and Money Matters, LLC. You might have to make some considerable life changes to reduce living expenses to live on one income, especially if that income significantly lowers the amount of credit for which you qualify.

Vasileff believes it’s important to create a budget, prioritize your debt and expenses, and keep up with payments that directly impact your credit score. According to FICO data, one recent 30-day late bill payment, if reported by the lender, can negatively impact your credit score by as much as a 110-point drop in score for up to seven years.

2. Separate joint accounts

Missed payments on joint accounts that are in your name and your spouse’s, including your mortgage, cosigned loans and joint credit cards can impact both of your credit scores.

Even if your divorce decree notes that your former spouse has agreed to take on some debt from your joint accounts, you are still legally liable. Creditors aren't bound by divorce decrees, so they could hold you responsible if your spouse fails to make payments.

"Credit cards and missed or late mortgage payments are where I really see credit scores start to sink,” says Michelle Nocito, a certified divorce financial analyst. “Especially if the parties are in disagreement and communication is low.”

You can, however, separate joint accounts by closing them and reopening new accounts in your name. Before doing so, make sure all balances have been paid on time and in full. You can also work with your creditors to separate the debt and re-establish joint accounts in one spouse’s name only. This would convert your joint accounts into individual ones. If possible, separate as many accounts as you can before your divorce is finalized.

“People’s emotional temperatures are very high during a divorce,” Nocito says. “I’ve seen couples separate and [then] out of spite, one party will run up the credit cards.” 

3. Build your credit

The good news is that when it comes to credit, you can always get a fresh start.

“It’s important to establish your own individual credit identity as quickly as possible,” Vasileff says. “Get a major credit card, open a bank account, finance a new car purchase, or take out a new line of credit. You don’t have to borrow against it, but it’s important to be approved for credit and get it started.”

Don’t wait until you need credit to build it, Nocito says. Simply being granted new credit is considered a positive sign to the three national credit reporting agencies, provided you open new lines of credit slowly over time, rather than logging multiple requests in a short period.  

4. Check your credit report

It’s also important to review your credit report from the three credit reporting agencies at least annually. If possible, ask your spouse to do the same. This will help you spot and settle any financial disputes or errors before the divorce is final.

One of Vasileff’s clients had no idea her husband had taken out a second home equity line on the house in both of their names until she pulled her credit report. Vasileff believes the most important tip for people going through a divorce is to “know your finances.”

If you’re going through a divorce or soon will be, protecting (and, if necessary) rebuilding your credit takes effort and time, but it’s not impossible. However, Nocito says, ignoring your financial obligations could have a lasting impact and stay with you long after the marriage is over.

Understand your credit score

Looking to improve and understand your credit score? Start here.

This content does not constitute legal, tax, accounting, financial or investment advice. You are encouraged to consult with competent legal, tax, accounting, financial or investment professionals based on your specific circumstances. We do not make any warranties as to accuracy or completeness of this information, do not endorse any third-party companies, products, or services described here, and take no liability for your use of this information.


Investment and Insurance Products:

Are Not FDIC or any other Government Agency Insured   Are Not Bank Guaranteed  May Lose Value 

© 2018 SunTrust Banks, Inc

equal housing logoSunTrust Bank is an Equal Housing Lender. Member FDIC

equal housing logoEqual Housing Lender. SunTrust Mortgage, Inc

SunTrust, SunTrust Mortgage, SunTrust PortfolioView, SunTrust Robinson Humphrey, SunTrust Premier Program, AMC Pinnacle, AMC Premier, Access 3, Signature Advantage Brokerage, Custom Choice Loan and SunTrust SummitView are federally registered service marks of SunTrust Banks, Inc. All other trademarks are the property of their respective owners.

Services provided by the following affiliates of SunTrust Banks, Inc.: Banking products and services are provided by SunTrust Bank, Member FDIC. Trust and investment management services are provided by SunTrust Bank, SunTrust Delaware Trust Company and SunTrust Banks Trust Company (Cayman) Limited. Securities, brokerage accounts and insurance (including annuities) are offered by SunTrust Investment Services, Inc., a SEC registered broker-dealer, member FINRA, SIPC, and a licensed insurance agency. Investment advisory services are offered by SunTrust Advisory Services, Inc., a SEC registered adviser. GFO Advisory Services, LLC is a SEC registered investment adviser that provides investment advisory services to a group of private investment funds and other non-investment advisory services to affiliates. Mortgage products and services are provided by SunTrust Mortgage, Inc.

SunTrust Mortgage, Inc. - NMLS #2915, 901 Semmes Avenue, Richmond, VA 23224, 1-800-634-7928. CA: licensed by the Department of Business Oversight under the California Residential Mortgage Lending Act, IL: Illinois Residential Mortgage Licensee #MB-989, Department of Financial and Professional Regulation, 100 W. Randolph, Suite 900, Chicago, IL 60601, 1-888-473-4858, MA: Mortgage Lender license #-ML-2915, NJ: Mortgage Banker License - New Jersey Department of Banking and Insurance, NY: Licensed Mortgage Banker—NYS Department of Financial Services, and RI: Rhode Island Licensed Lender.

"SunTrust Advisors" may be officers and/or associated persons of the following affiliates of SunTrust Banks, Inc.: SunTrust Bank, our commercial bank, which provides banking, trust and asset management services; SunTrust Investment Services, Inc., a registered broker-dealer, which is a member of FINRA and SIPC, and a licensed insurance agency, and which provides securities, annuities and life insurance products; SunTrust Advisory Services, Inc., a SEC registered investment adviser which provides Investment Advisory services.

SunTrust Private Wealth Management, International Wealth Management, Business Owner Specialty Group, Sports and Entertainment Group, and Legal and Medical Specialty Groups and GenSpring are marketing names used by SunTrust Bank, SunTrust Banks Trust Company (Cayman) Limited, SunTrust Delaware Trust Company, SunTrust Investment Services, Inc., and SunTrust Advisory Services, Inc.

SunTrust Bank and its affiliates do not accept fiduciary responsibility for all banking and investment account types offered. Please consult with your SunTrust representative to determine whether SunTrust and its affiliates have agreed to accept fiduciary responsibility for your account(s) and if you have completed the documentation necessary to establish a fiduciary relationship with SunTrust Bank or an affiliate. Additional information regarding account types and important disclosures may be found at

SunTrust Robinson Humphrey is the trade name for the corporate and investment banking services of SunTrust Banks, Inc. and its subsidiaries, including SunTrust Robinson Humphrey, Inc., member FINRA and SIPC.