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Five Things to Know Before Running a Credit Report on You or Your Spouse in Connection with a Divorce

Five Things to Know Before Running a Credit Report on You or Your Spouse in Connection with a Divorce

Five Things to Know Before Running a Credit Report on You or Your Spouse in Connection with a Divorce

Why should I be concerned about running a credit report on you or your spouse in connection with a divorce in Columbus or Central Ohio?  If you run a credit report on you or your spouse in connection with a divorce you may face charges of identity theft exposing your to $1,000 fine and, more importantly, punitive damages and attorneys fees which can run into the tens of thousands of dollars.

Credit reports follow you everywhere you go, whether you know your score or not. Your credit score may affect your mortgage rates, credit card approvals, apartment requests, utility hookups, and insurance rates. Surprisingly, your credit score can change daily without you lifting a finger. Creditors often report at varying times of the month which will raise or lower your score based on what they report. Therefore, it is essential that you stay on top of your credit report to ensure an accurate reading. You don’t want to be going  through a divorce or separation planning to get a new job or a new place to live and then find out that something you know nothing about (from your credit report) blocks you from doing what you want to do (or even need to do)!

 How I can be affected on multiple levels if I have a bad credit report–

Under the Fair Credit Reporting Act, a limited number of individuals have the right to look at your credit report. These entities include companies intending to offer you insurance or credit and this would also be landlords and utility companies as well as companies with which you have existing debt.  Note that current or prospective employers, courts, state agencies and law enforcement agencies may also have the right. Of course if you sign a release, then anyone having the releases can examine your report. You are also able to view your report at any time. The question is, how do you go about safely viewing your credit report at no cost to you?

You can review your credit report for free on a secure site, but. . . .

Federal law requires each of the three nationwide consumer credit reporting companies (Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion) to give you a free credit report every 12 months, if you request it. AnnualCreditReport.com makes it easy to request your score from each company.  You can request all three reports at once, or space them out over the course of a year. It is important to remember that each credit reporting agency has its own scoring model so scores vary slightly between the companies.  If you do not want to request credit information online, AnnualCreditReport.com allows you to call 1-877-322-8228 to request your report. After a verification process on the phone, your credit report will be mailed to you within 15 days. Further, you can also download and print the credit report request form on their website and after completion mail it into: Annual Credit Report Request Service, P.O. Box 105281, Atlanta, GA 30348-5281. Your credit report will then be mailed to you within 15 days.

Don’t do the one that’s “free” but requires you to give them your credit card first and cancel later. Just choose the AnnualCreditReport.com option.

Your credit report may come into play during a family law case matter–

It is important to remember that your significant other may decide to look at your credit report for indications of financial doings they know nothing about and to see if you are keeping secret accounts or assets. Your significant other may have easy access to your social security number, bank or credit card account numbers, and is likely to have your basic information and passwords and could probably gain access to your report.

Why shouldn’t you run a credit report on you or your spouse in connection with a divorce or dissolution?  What are your options if this happens to you? A significant other that does this has essentially committed identity theft and you can report this to the police or file a law suit. You can also temporarily freeze your credit report with each of the three individual bureaus at a small cost. Freezing your credit report will make it inaccessible for most purposes – although a company you have dealt with or the court or an investigator performing a background check may still have access. Your credit report can also be unfrozen by you online, by password if you need its use.

At some point during your life, you may find yourself at the center of a divorce, dissolution, or child custody matter. Your ex and/or his/her attorney or a private investigator working on the case may pull your credit report to check if you have any hidden assets or bank accounts. Legally, they have no standing to do so unless they receive a court order. If there is no court order, you can sue them for being in violation of the Fair Credit Reporting Act.  This is why you shouldn’t run a credit report on you or your spouse in connection with a divorce or dissolution

The other in a divorce action may request that you voluntarily relinquish your credit report to them. You may want to comply but do so only if the other side will reciprocate with access to their report. Your refusal to cooperate though may arouse suspicion, and the opposing party may be able to request a court order demanding the report anyway—all of which will result in higher attorney fees and the passage of more time.

If someone illegally accesses my credit report, then what?

You have decided to sue the individual who has illegally accessed your credit report. But what will you get out of the case? The Fair Credit Reporting Act provides for damages up to $1,000 in accidental situations. However, it is possible to also sue for punitive damages, costs, and attorney fees and get more.

Conclusion

Why wouldn’t you want to run a credit report on you or your spouse in connection with a divorce or dissolution in Columbus?  It can and will have significant financial implications.  Don’t risk a financial judgement which could wipe out a substantial portion of your marital assets.

Your credit report is essential for maintaining your financial health. This report will follow you for the remainder of your life and will fluctuate based on what credit reporting entities are providing to the nationwide consumer credit reporting companies. It is essential to stay on top of your credit report not only for your financial health, but also to ensure that no one is illegally accessing your credit report without your permission. If someone does access without your permission then you have legally enforceable rights to collect damages.

William Geary is admitted to practice in Ohio, and in the Federal District for the Southern District of Ohio as well as the United States Supreme Court. Our law firm practices solely in the area of Family Law. Haley Holmberg, our paralegal who helped with this post and research, was recently graduated from law school and is currently studying for the bar.  We invite you to contact us or call 614-228-1968 prior to filing a divorce or dissolution.  It is important to understand the law, you legal options and how to protect your credit before, during and after the end of a marriage.