Q: My former husband left me four years ago with three kids and badly damaged credit. Is there any chance of repairing the damage that has been done? Will I ever be able to purchase anything on credit again?\ - M.E., Greensboro
A: Your problem - getting stuck with the bills after a break-up - is common, said Ed Roach, director of the Consumer Credit Counseling Service office in Greensboro.Divorce freed you from your husband, but it didn't free you from the debts.
``The divorce decree ... means nothing to the creditor,' Roach said. ``Your legal rights to that creditor did not go away (even if) the divorce decree said your former spouse had to pay.'
You can mend your credit record. But it will take time, persistence and, of course, money.
Get a copy of your credit report so you can see how much it says you owe and to whom. To get the report, call Equifax at (800) 685-1111 or TRW at (214) 235-1200. TRW will provide one free report annually, and Equifax usually charges $8. If you've been denied credit recently, you're entitled to a free copy.
Most financial strikes stay on your record for seven years. But, as Roach puts it, ``old bad bills are not as bad as new bad bills.'
Debts marked uncollectible by creditors will hurt you the most. To fix your record, you'll have to start paying off those and other balances. After you've done that, Roach says you eventually should be able to qualify for credit, including a car loan or FHA mortgage.
Fixing your credit record will be tough. To get help doing it, call the Consumer Credit Counseling Service office in Greensboro at 333-6910. Even better: Their advice is free.\
Mark Henry, a Greensboro coin collector, has a warning for anyone who wants to cash in their old coins (Money Doc, June 14): ``Check up on your coins before you trade them in and get too little for them.'
Coin dealers may give unwary coin owners far less than the coins are worth, Henry said. The best defense is consulting one of several price guides on the market. He uses one called ``Edmund's United States Coin Prices,' published monthly. It costs $4.95 and is available at many supermarkets and newsstands.\