DEBTS AND DIVORCE

IN RETROSPECT Lindi Khumalo realised that she should not have let her ex-husband keep the house. When they divorced in 2005 they decided he would continue living there with their daughter.

IN RETROSPECT Lindi Khumalo realised that she should not have let her ex-husband keep the house. When they divorced in 2005 they decided he would continue living there with their daughter.

The plan?

For him to re-finance the house within 90 days of the divorce and become the sole debtor on the mortgage. That never happened. Mortgage payments have been late or not sent at all.

Khumalo's credit is in shambles.

I'm pretty strapped," she says.

She now lives with a friend and can't take on a mortgage of her own since she is the primary holder on the old one.

"My credit - what I'm responsible for - is impeccable. What he is responsible for - still in my name - has ruined everything good that I've done," she said.

It's a predicament faced by many former couples. The marriage might be over and the divorce papers signed, but the credit they took on together remains. That can cause trouble for either one if the other handles a joint account irresponsibly.

Should one ex-spouse stop paying the creditor can go after the other . Even if the divorce decree spells out clearly who is responsible for what , the lender doesn't really care about it, says John Ulzheimer, president of Credit.com Educational Services, a consumer education web site.

"The divorce decree doesn't override the original contract with the creditor. They'll go after both parties."

That's exactly why Khanyi Tshabalala, 60, is paying off two of her ex-husband's credit cards.

"There were court orders for him to pay them but they're still in my name," she says.

Because her ex is frequently late with payments, Tshabalala's credit score with one of the bureaus has plummeted and could disqualify her from getting loans altogether. To remedy her credit, Tshabalala recently called the issuers and asked that the statements be sent to her address.

And then there are puzzling credit mix-up cases like Lerato Moyo, 57. Separated since 1991 and divorced since 1995, she and her ex don't speak, save for an obligatory "hello". Moyo recently pulled her credit report and was shocked to find her ex was still very much present in her credit file: His address was listed as hers as were two of his individual credit card accounts. Because the accounts weren't hers - the credit bureau confirmed they were her ex's - Moyo had the errors removed with no harm done to her credit.

"Luckily he's a very good payer, so I've never had problems," she says.

But if his accounts are on her report, what are the chances hers are on his report?

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