I Divorced Him a Year Ago, but I Can’t Get His Debt Out of My Life

A woman looks surprised while looking at some papers she is holding.
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Dear Penny,

I have been divorced for over a year now, and there are a few things on my credit report from my ex that shouldn't be there. I recently tried reopening a credit card with my credit union, but it refused me because I have too many things on my report.

This makes me mad, because I worked hard to get where I am. Should I start paying down my small debts, or should I let it go?

I have a car that my ex and I jointly own (I started having issues with the payments), another credit card that he opened up in my name that's maxed out, and a cable TV subscription that shouldn’t be there.

All the debts equal around $1,800. I plan to travel the country, but I won’t be able to with the way this is going. Help.


Dear D.,

Even once the divorce papers are signed, the act of uncoupling can remain stressful for years to come. It’s easy to look at the challenges before you and feel doomed. After all, divorce was supposed to make your life better, not complicate it further.

But even in these difficult days, it’s vital that you stay focused on acting in the best interest of your future self. Today you might want to hide and hope these problems go away. But your future self will be grateful you took charge.

Here are a few steps you can take to get as much of this straightened out as possible.

Depending on the time you have available and your energy levels, these tasks could take some time. Be kind to yourself as you formulate your best plan of action.

  1. If you haven’t already, pull your free credit report to determine exactly what debts are in your name versus which are still shared. See something that doesn’t make sense or that you swear was taken care of already? File a dispute with the credit reporting bureaus. Then keep track of those disputes until they’re resolved. It will be helpful to have your divorce paperwork handy — you may need to provide copies of it to the credit bureaus or any companies you contact to have your name removed from an account. 
  2. Schedule an appointment to sit down with someone at your credit union. First, you’ll want to go over what you can do to be more creditworthy in their eyes. Developing a relationship with someone at your local branch can help you get questions answered more quickly — and it never hurts to have someone else looking out for your interests when it comes to your finances. 
  3. You can also talk to your credit union about the possibility of refinancing your auto loan. Refinancing the car in your own name may not be an immediate option if you’re trying to rebuild your credit, but it could be an option down the line. In the meantime, be hypervigilant about your car loan, and make sure your payment history on it is spotless. 
  4. Do not give up on paying down your debt. No matter how small your payments are, you are making progress. If you can only pay $20 per month toward your debt, do it. This may take years, but you are doing your best. Don’t forget that. Every day, you are doing your best.

The inbox is open. Submit a question or send your worries to [email protected], and I’ll see what I can do to help.

Disclaimer: Chosen questions and featured answers will appear in The Penny Hoarder’s “Dear Penny” column. I won’t be able to answer every single letter (I can only type so fast!). We reserve the right to edit and publish your questions. Don’t worry — your identity will remain anonymous. I don’t have a psychology, accounting, finance or legal degree, so my advice is for general informational purposes only. I do, however, promise to give you honest advice based on my own insights and real-life experiences.

Lisa Rowan is a senior writer at The Penny Hoarder.