One of the most challenging parts of the divorce process for many people is splitting up their financial lives. Most couples have accumulated multiple debts together -- including mortgages, auto loans and credit cards.

That's one reason it's important to watch your credit score before, during and after a divorce. You're entitled to one free report from the three reporting agencies annually. You need to know if your spouse's activities have dragged your score down. As a newly-single person, your credit score will be crucial as you make purchases on your own and if you rent a new home.

Preparing for Divorce

You should know every account, credit card and loan that your name is on with your spouse. Verify your list with what appears on your credit reports. Check the balance and status of each account and debit product online periodically, even if you don't think your ex will run up your credit cards or drain the bank accounts.

If you believe you need to take legal action to prevent your spouse from running through your money so he or she doesn't have to split it or from racking up thousands in debt on your credit cards, talk with your attorney. You may be able to prevent these actions with a court order.

Dividing Your Credit Cards

It may be tempting to close all your joint credit cards or remove your name from them. However, these are part of your credit history. The longer you've maintained a credit card in good standing, the better it is for your credit score.

Some couples split up the credit cards. One spouse has his or her name removed from some, while the other one does the same with the others. For the cards you're keeping solely in your name, it's safest to have the card number changed. You retain your credit history, but your ex or someone else will have a harder time using the card.

What Credit Cards Do You Need Going Forward?

When you're deciding which cards to keep and what new ones you may need in the future, do some research. You may prefer one that gives you cash back. Many offer vacation and other membership rewards. Find out which ones will give you the most bang for your buck. If you weren't the one in the marriage that handled the credit cards, you might want to start out slow with just one or two. This isn't the time to accumulate interest and fees if you can avoid it.

A financial planner experienced in assisting divorcing people can help you and your attorney make the financial decisions that are in your best interests.