While a final judgment of divorce cuts off all marital ties, it does not necessarily mean that you are free from the responsibilities that you shared with your spouse during the marriage. One of the most aggravating issues to resolve in a divorce are debts, especially in the forms of credit cards and bank loans. Regardless of what it says in the divorce decree, many spouses fail to pay their share of the marital debts, or refinance certain debts under their own name.
Mortgages are probably the most common debt that gets refinances as a result of divorce, typically under the name of the person who is awarded the house. What happens though, when that spouse procrastinates, or outright refuses to refinance the mortgage? Perhaps it's not a big deal if they're making timely payments, but even a couple of late or missed payments can hurt your credit score. Then again, having your name on an existing mortgage can make it difficult for you to obtain another mortgage, regardless of the payment status.
If you are stuck in this situation, it's important to take legal action right away. Many people mistakenly assume that the courts will not help them beyond the final divorce decree, but the New Jersey courts take the preservation of one's credit score very seriously. Judges have repeatedly stated the importance of having good credit in order to obtain the basic necessities of life, such as buying a car, or renting/ purchasing a new home. Granted, it is each spouse's responsibility to monitor their own credit, and take action as soon as possible when another person's action, or lack thereof, affects their score in a negative way. However, refinancing or retitling a debt in one's own name is a court ordered responsibility in the case of a divorce. A direct violation of that court order will be addressed and remedied by the courts so long as you take decisive action.
Take, for example, the 2015 case of L.H. v. D.H., in which the plaintiff was rejected for a mortgage two years after the divorce, because his ex-wife had failed to refinance the old mortgage in her name only. Although it's arguable that he should have checked up on this situation much sooner, the court still agreed that the defendant was in clear violation of the terms of their divorce agreement. In addition, the court stressed that “a negative credit rating and score can have a detrimental and sometimes disastrous effect on the party's financial health…” Based on these factors, the court granted the husband the right to sell the house, and appointed him attorney-in-fact for the purpose of signing any documents related to the sale.
As you can see, there are ways of going after an ex who is ruining your credit score, whether it be out of spite or negligence. For more information on your post-divorce rights and legal options, please speak with the attorneys of Villani & DeLuca, P.C.