Married at 19, homeowner at 22, divorced at 24, bankrupt at 25

Tracey Folly

*This is a work of nonfiction based on actual events I experienced firsthand; used with permission.

At an age when most women in their twenties aren't even thinking about buying a house, I had already lost mine to a divorce and a foreclosure. I subsequently filed for bankruptcy at the age of twenty-five.

After filing for bankruptcy at such a young age, I thought I could never rebuild my credit. Fortunately, that was not the case. It's been years since my bankruptcy and divorce, and my credit score is the highest it's ever been.

If you are in the same situation, you should know that you can recover financially from negative life events, such as divorce, foreclosure, and even bankruptcy. I know because I recovered completely.

The road to bankruptcy began when my husband and I purchased a home in our early twenties. I was twenty-two years old when we applied for our mortgage, and he was just twenty years old.

We moved into the single-family, four-bedroom, two-story home, and my husband promptly lost his job, leaving me to pay the entire mortgage myself besides food, utilities, and car expenses by myself. Unfortunately, my monthly paycheck was the same amount as the monthly mortgage, give or take a couple of bucks.

Our marriage deteriorated for reasons mostly unrelated to finances, and I moved out of the home we had bought together.

At a meeting with our respective divorce attorneys, his lawyer suggested I sign a quitclaim deed, which gave my husband all rights to the house without absolving me of my financial obligation as a mortgage holder. Neither of us paid the mortgage for the next year, but only one of us was living in the house, and it wasn't me.

During the next meeting with our respective divorce attorneys, I learned my husband had been incurring debt in my name. In my absence, my husband had forged my name on several pre-approved credit card applications that had arrived in his mailbox addressed to me.

My lawyer said if I wanted to get the divorce pushed through sooner, I'd need to agree to pay half the marital debt, which included the credit card bills he had incurred in my name without my knowledge.

Desperate to get the divorce completed, I agreed.

When we arrived at family court to see the judge a few weeks later, my attorney advised me that my husband had done it again. He had forged my name on credit card applications and then used those credit cards to amass tens of thousands of dollars in debt. Also, our home was in foreclosure.

Initially, I resisted filing for bankruptcy because I was ashamed. However, I finally agreed to file for bankruptcy because I'd be ruined financially otherwise. It was easier than I thought, and I've come to realize I did the right thing.

Everyone deserves a fresh start. If I hadn't filed for bankruptcy at twenty-five, I'd still be paying credit card bills and unpaid mortgage payments from over two decades earlier.

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