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From dividing up marital assets to getting used to new living arrangements, ending a marriage can result in many changes and challenges for California couples. Because of all the issues related to a divorce, some soon-to-be-exes overlook matters related to their credit that could have a long-term effect on their ability to manage their finances.

A change in marital status alone doesn’t affect credit scores; this information isn’t even included on credit reports. The potential for credit problems is largely dependent on the nature of a divorce and the willingness of both spouses to live up to their debt responsibilities as dictated by a divorce agreement. Unfortunately, creditors are not legally obligated to honor divorce decrees. This could result in one former spouse having credit difficulties if the other one fails to keep up with their share of the payments.

Joint accounts also stay on credit reports. The potential problem with such accounts is that a disgruntled ex may add charges to these accounts or purposely make late payments. While both men and women can be affected by credit issues post-divorce, women tend to be hit harder. One reason for this is because women, on average, earn less than men. According to one survey, more than half of the divorced women said their credit score declined during their marriage. Half of the women surveyed also said their ex negatively affected their credit.

A divorce and family law attorney may advise a divorcing client to close joint accounts or remove the other spouse as an authorized user to protect their credit as a marriage comes to an end. If possible, a lawyer may attempt to separate joint accounts and debt obligations during the negotiation process. In some instances, an attorney may call on a financial adviser to help a client get a better perspective on their debt situation.