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Credit scores can influence divorce, property division

Before couples in the Houston area tie the knot, they usually go over a few basic details with each other: where they will live, how many children they want and what shape their careers will take. However, one thing that newlyweds tend to gloss over is the issue of finances. This subject can rear its head later on, after the honeymoon has ended and couples have begun coping with the reality of everyday expenses.

Research from the Federal Reserve Board points to the need for couples to discuss their finances before and during marriage. The Board notes that couples whose credit scores differ widely are more likely to get divorced than those whose scores are similar. At first glance, this might seem coincidental, but different credit scores may point to different attitudes on spending, saving and building credit. In addition, divergent scores may thwart shared goals, such as getting a mortgage or other big-ticket items that require loans.

Couples with dissimilar credit scores may be in for money-related surprises if they divorce. For example, one spouse may have debt that the other doesn't know about until property division takes place. In fact, some parties may not even know their spouses have bad credit, because errors on a credit report can go unnoticed for long periods of time. Debt that is jointly held, such as that stemming from joint credit card accounts, can be particularly contentious during divorce if it is not addressed calmly and thoroughly.

In a community property state such as Texas, couples may be responsible for debt acquired during the marriage, even if that debt doesn't come from joint accounts. Couples who separate, then, may benefit from legal advice even prior to filing for divorce, since separation doesn't automatically liberate a spouse from the other's debt accumulation during that period.

Source: Long Island Newsday, "Money fix: Credit score and divorce," Sheryl Nance-Nash, Oct. 17, 2013

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Attorney Christine K. Lincoln

Christine K. Lincoln offers sound counsel and legal services to protect clients and their families facing divorce and other family disputes.

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