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What to do when ex-spouse fails to pay joint mortgage and failure harms other spouse's credit score
Q. My ex-wife still lives in what was our house. My name is not on the deed as a result of the Court’s action, but I am still a responsible party on the mortgage. The Ex is not paying the mortgage and it is hurting my credit. How can I get off the mortgage and how can I clean up my credit history?A. In these economic times, this is a common problem after divorce. The divorce court’s ruling that one party pay a mortgage is not binding on the bank holding the mortgage. So, when the party who is ordered to pay fails to do so, the bank will seek payments from the other party. Indeed, the first party’s failure to pay–which is a violation of the divorce court’s orders – will have negative consequences for both parties’ credit scores.At this stage of the game, your wife could voluntarily try to refinance the mortgage, but I’m guessing she won’t be able to do so – if she were in a solid financial condition, she would be making payments now. Your best option may be to go back to court and ask the judge to order the ex-wife to refinance the mortgage or to sell the property. You should consult with your divorce attorney to explore various options to accomplish this. If your ex-wife is in violation of court orders, you should be able to file an indirect contempt action against her and seek attorney fees as part of your relief. You could seek an order requiring the refinancing or sale of the property in the same action.Fixing your credit will not be an easy matter. I would begin by obtaining credit reports from the major credit reporting agencies. Then, you will need to identify the negative entries on those reports that resulted from your ex-wife’s violation of the Court’s orders in the divorce. Get certified copies of all documentation from the Court showing that payment of the mortgage, and other bills, was your ex-wife’s responsibility and you have taken steps to force her to comply with the Court’s orders. Write a letter to each credit reporting agency explaining the situation and provide the copies of the Court documents. The credit reporting agencies should then make adjustments in your reports and eventually your credit score will improve to levels it should have been in the first place. If this approach does not result in changes in your credit report that you believe are necessary, contact an attorney experienced with dealing with those agencies for assistance.I hope this was helpful.David J. Brown, Managing AttorneyThe Law Offices of David J. Brown, LC1040 New Hampshire, Suite 14Lawrence, Kansas 66044 785-842-0777 Because every legal situation is different, no response or comment in this blog can be considered legal advice to any one person, even the person who posed the original question that prompted a discussion because the answers will be generalized to provide basic information for all readers. Anyone with a real or potential legal problem should seek the advice of a practicing attorney who is educated and experienced in the area of law in question. Use of this blog does not create an attorney-client relationship between the reader and The Law Offices of David J. Brown, LC.