Had spouse, now have bad credit
April 15, 2009 2:25 PM   Subscribe

Bad credit due to ex spouse. So how bad is this black mark going to hurt me?

Four years ago, I became divorced from my spouse, Chris. We divorced no-fault but Chris was (perhaps still is) an alcoholic who went over time from social drinking to having a few too many a little too often to finally being unable to function in the real world.
Chris wanted and got the house which was fine; Chris liked it more and at the time made more money than I. Our divorce papers gave Chris the responsibility of all costs associated with the house and specified Chris had 12 months to sell the house or refinance to get me off the deed and mortgage.
Chris dragged feet; I followed up. Chris lost job. The mortgage fell behind. Chris’ folks bailed Chris out. Per the law in my county, I took Chris to mediation. Chris agreed to sell or refi the house ASAP. Didn’t happen. Lawyer helped me file a contempt claim against Chris for violating this (and several other) provisions of divorce. Chris' parents give more money to pay mortgage. Court date not set due to court calendar. Chris did tell me there was a potential buyer, dragged feet on getting paperwork to me, then came to me with sales contract at one point which I signed but then title report came back with lien and buyer bailed out. In the meantime (2007), foreclosure happens because I can’t afford to pay my own rent plus the back mortgage, a lien (placed after the divorce for a default judgment someone had against Chris), HA fees, etc totaling over 20k. Chris is totally broke so no help there.
So I have a big honking foreclosure on my credit report. It’s the only big bad thing there. I may have some (very few) miscellaneous late payments (~30 days) over the last decade but otherwise all is A-OK. I currently (knock wood) have stable employment and no debt.
However, I may want to seek employment elsewhere eventually, and I have discovered that I may need to apply for a higher level security clearance than I have already. (I got the clearance before this happened).
So how bad is this black mark going to hurt me with job stuff? And how do I cope with the occasional feelings of anger, guilt and embarrassment?
The friend who looked over this question said I should mention that “Chris was emotionally abusive and had a violent temper and was very clever about deceiving me about what was going on while we still lived together”. (fwiw)
Yes, I know I could have done things differently. I was young and naïve when I married. Thanks for any advice. I can be reached at Howbadcanitbe AT gmail.com
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (6 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
There are really only two ways to get a foreclosure off of a credit record. The first is relatively easy but takes a long time, whereas the second is quite difficult but can be result in the immediate removal of foreclosure from a credit report.

The first option every foreclosure victim has is to wait the 7-10 years (depending on all the circumstances, state, etc.) for the foreclosure to drop off of the credit report automatically. The credit agencies may keep reporting it after this period of time, but a few letters can have it removed after the time for its reporting has expired. In the meantime, the homeowner who does not wish to use credit any longer will simply have to wait it out. For those who do wish to keep themselves chained to the debt machine, even after foreclosure, the best thing to do may be to focus on building new, better credit records and put some time between themselves and the foreclosure. New lenders will give an old foreclosure less weight than 5 subsequent years of on-time payments, for instance.

The second way is to have the original lender remove the record from the credit report. Obviously, this is much more difficult than waiting nearly a decade, and lenders are not too willing to do this. However, it can be done the same way that consumers clean up their credit reports every day in other circumstances. Just dispute the debt, threaten the bank, sue the bank, sue the credit agencies, file complaints with regulatory agencies, and so on, until they realize that it is just easier to get rid of a crazy person by removing the foreclosure, rather than spend more time and money explaining its existence and accumulating complaints. Playing this role can often be very entertaining and enlightening for those cleaning up their credit reports, because they will experience first-hand how the bureaucrats and banks work together hand-in-hand against the average person.

Good luck to you. I'm still waiting out some indigent credit card debt my ex-wife had when we divorced in 2002. It should begin to fall off my credit report this year and next.
posted by netbros at 2:57 PM on April 15, 2009

So how bad is this black mark going to hurt me with job stuff? And how do I cope with the occasional feelings of anger, guilt and embarrassment?

It depends on how bureaucratic your employers are. I've done freelance consulting and PI/BI/corporate intelligence work ever since I left in 2003/4, and--to the best of my knowledge--have never lost an opportunity because of it. In seven years, you can breathe a little easier anyway. Also, you should formally dispute your credit record now: if they can't prove the debts are yours, it gets dropped after a certain period of time.

Are you considering applying for a top secret/SBI clearance? The investigation is far more intensive than what you went through to get "secret," so I'd put it off if at all possible. Clean up your credit first and give it time, since it's likely to count heavily against you. I don't know what field you're in, but remember there's a hell of a lot of intelligence and analysis work to be had in the private sector. (Needless to say, it pays better too!)

If I were you, I wouldn't get too far into airing laundry lists of the gazillion ways your husband was a scumbag. You can accomplish the same thing by blaming it on the fact that he incurred debts without your knowledge or consent. In a word, keep it professional and don't give people too many reasons to question your judgment.

As for the anger, just be thankful you're putting the situation behind you. Stay focused on what you're doing now and let the rest go. Good luck!
posted by aquafortis at 5:18 PM on April 15, 2009

I'm going to second what aquafortis said about not getting "too far into airing laundry lists of the gazillion ways your husband was a scumbag."

The way your question & comments were written, made me question your judgment within the first 4 sentences. If this really is all Chris' fault... it'll prove itself out without you having to angrily point fingers to cover up the wounds he caused.

Best wishes to you in your journey to overcome this black mark.
posted by eli_d at 6:53 PM on April 15, 2009

FWIW by the way the question was phrased, this could be a husband or wife, not that it matters at all in regards to being a scumbag or to this situation at all.
posted by reptile at 5:34 AM on April 16, 2009

follow up from OP
"I wouldn't get too far into airing laundry lists of the gazillion ways your husband was a scumbag".

I think I may have given an incorrect impression. I added the details to provide background to the question (especially the emotional component), but I would never mention them to people on the job. I agree doing so would not be appropriate or smart.
I think the legal record speaks for itself as to fault/responsibility so I don't have to add anything in a professional setting. Besides, anyone with Chris' name, my name and and Google can see which one of us has not had run-ins with the police.
posted by jessamyn at 7:19 AM on April 16, 2009

Let's boil this down to the actual pertinent facts, so far as a credit report goes.

* You divorce with an agreement that the loan will be paid off or refinanced to remove your name.
* This does not happen
* Foreclosure

The rest is irrelevant. It may well be that you can sue Chris for anything this costs you (though the standard blood from a stone issue comes up here) but as far as loan reporting, you were still legally liable and the loan went into default. So the creditor is reporting this fact, which they have the right to do. The fact that you might be able to stave off getting held responsible (or maybe not - I really don't know) isn't really relevant.

Now, the upside of recent years has been that mortgages have been passed around and sold so many times (I know of several people whose mortgages changed servicers 4 times in one year) that there's some real disarray. This can be an advantage when disputing things since there's time limits people are obligated to meet when you challenge line items in your report.

The usual dance is you challenge, the credit reporting agency (CRA) asks the creditor for validation, the creditor validates with no real effort (it's all on a console for them - they hit a few keys) and then you have to demand that they provide their methodology. You can google up some stuff on this; Debtorboards.com is the go-to location for more explanation.

The downside to all these handoffs is that you could end up going through this dance repeatedly as things are sold and the new creditor reports the account, though now that you're in foreclosure that may be unlikely.

This may be the only situation where your ability to put a statement into your credit report is worthwhile. There's no guarantee that the person processing your clearance will pay it any attention but it can't make it worse. Write up a short statement indicating that your ex-husband failed in his legal obligation to get you off the loan and he's responsible for all costs and the state of the mortgage, and that legal proceedings are ongoing.

Unfortunately netbros' comment that you can be a big pain to the creditor and get your listing off that way may not hold up here; the lender wants their money and they have two people who are legally liable on the paper: you, who has money, and your ex, who does not. They would have to be morons to let the only non-indigent person off that loan without a fight given the current economic situation.

Have you discussed this with your security officer? It may be that you're better off addressing it now before the process starts to get you the next level up.
posted by phearlez at 12:42 PM on April 16, 2009

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