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Dividing up credit cards in your divorce

Splitting up credit cards and credit card debt may not be your top priority as you go through your divorce. However, these things need to be done carefully to protect your credit rating and allow you to have the credit available that you need moving forward.

First, it's essential to determine which credit cards your name is on. You may think you know, but it's best to request your credit report from all three reporting agencies. This will tell you what credit card accounts as well as other credit products, like loans and lines of credit, you have some responsibility for paying. You'll then need to work with your spouse to determine how much of the debt on your cards each of you will be responsible for paying.

The next big decision is who keeps which cards. Closing them all and getting new ones is typically not the best solution. If you've had one or more cards for years and have a good payment record, that helps your credit score. It's often best for the spouse who is the primary user of a particular card to keep their name on it and remove the other person's name (or their authorized user status). Contact the issuer about doing that.

It's also wise to change the credit card account numbers. This can help ensure that the spouse who's no longer on the account can't use them.

As you determine which cards you'd prefer to keep, consider what you'll be using them for as well as what cash back, membership rewards, discounts or other perks you have the most use for. For example, if you will be traveling a lot, an airline card that gives you miles for every dollar charged can save you a lot of money.

It may take you a few months on your own to determine your new credit card spending habits. You may end up getting another card or two on your own in addition to the ones you kept in the divorce.

Your family law attorney can help you as you work to divide your credit cards and credit card debt. You want to be in the strongest possible financial condition as you begin life as a newly single person.

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