When divorce is a primary factor in settling your debts there is a right way and a wrong way to go about making the settlement offer
Let us assume for now that the soon-to-be ex-husband was awarded all the bills, while the ex-wife has been removed from all account liability
Regardless of other awards or findings as a result of the divorce, one must make it perfectly clear to all creditors that the court has ruled, calls to the ex-wife must stop, and any perception to the contrary will be considered contempt of court. Inform your creditors of the court’s decision, and let them know your financial status.
You are attempting to establish good credit for your former spouse, while often taking a huge hit on your own credit report. That is commendable, and very important when children are involved in the divorce.
You should expect your creditors to assume you are lying or trying some kind of scam until they are notified in writing. But in reality creditors know divorce, job loss, and illness are the primary reasons for falling behind on the bills. You should expect to prove your case to your creditors. After a few months you will start to receive settlement offers from some, if not all of your creditors.
While we cannot give legal advice here is what we’ve learned over the years.
Write to all creditors right after the divorce, and send every letter with delivery confirmation.
• Keep a good daily diary of all phone calls and correspondence
• Be prepared to attack creditors that disregard the judge’s court order, and report them to your state attorney general
• When writing or talking to creditors make it clear that all creditors will accept a settlement or nobody will get a settlement from you – It’s all or nothing
• Every letter from that point on should be CC’d to all other creditors if practical and possible
• Let every creditor know about other creditors that a jeopardizing their possibility of a settlement offer
• Threaten all creditors with bankruptcy. Play the down-and-out newly divorced sad person role in necessary
• Take control of the situation right up front. Demand that calls to workplace shall stop immediately.
• Let the creditors know your are keeping daily logs. Appear to be obsessed, and by that we mean instead of saying, for instance “The last time you called…” you should say “Your last phone call of – this date – at 10:17 in the morning, which lasted until 10:20 AM, in which you said…”
• Start to be the executive. By that we mean you should make settlement offers to all your creditors. Tell them you have a certain budget for all of them, and they should expect you to enter consumer credit counseling, whereby the creditors will get a monthly payment determined by the CCC service. Threaten to cut the creditor out of the loop.
After a while you will start to get telephone calls from creditors that are trying to take your money. They will be trying the settlement scam. Of course you studied all of our pages and recognize the scam when you hear it. Tell the creditor to put it in writing and mail it to you as a signed contract.
DO NOT fall for the old line of “this is only good tonight during this phone call”
DO NOT fall for the “we can issue you a new credit card today to pay off that other bill” scam. They want you to renew your debt.
If accounts are turned over to bill collectors read our pages about bill collectors. Be informed. Think of it this way – the collector bought the account for less than the full amount, but the creditor wouldn’t settle with you. Call and ask them why. Then follow up with another letter to the creditor, mailed with delivery confirmation, and ask them to reconsider. Enter all of this in your daily diary.
Finally – and as a last resort – if you do declare bankruptcy, take your daily diary and all of your notes and letters with you. Tell that judge that you tried, and show proof.
In closing we leave you with one thought about settlement scams. When you are trying to do your best and a thief tries to steal money from you with a settlement offer that they have no intent of honoring, it does no good to throw away what money you have left. Take care of the mortgage first and the other creditors can process the debt as a charge-off, but it won’t be because you didn’t try.