You’re getting married, and it’s wonderful to focus on celebrating your love; but are you also marrying your spouse’s past debts? You need to also think about what happens after the wedding so you don’t get stuck with debts you didn’t run up yourself and wind up with a negative credit score. Dealing with the issues now can strengthen your relationship so that debts don’t become a burden your marriage can’t survive.
Money is one of the major issues that can cause conflict in a marriage. Debt brought into marriage is a problem area for couples. Newlyweds often are burdened with monetary demands such as paying off the wedding, funding the honeymoon, furnishing the household, and saving money for a down payment on a house and starting a family. Couples may have different priorities, spending habits, and saving practices. Debt adds extra pressures you don’t need or want.
So what can you do to protect your credit when you find yourself marrying someone who is burdened with debt? The experienced Ohio debt-relief attorneys at Fesenmyer Cousino Weinzimmer have some good news — getting married does not mean that one spouse takes on the other’s past debt or negative credit score.
Ohio is a “common property law” state, which means you’re generally responsible only for debt that’s in your name. Marriage does not mean your credit histories become combined, even if you now share the same last name and address. However, if you’re not careful, there are mistakes you can make that can get you into unwanted financial difficulty.
Combined debt is created when you take on debt together, so actions such as opening joint accounts, adding your partner as an authorized user on a credit card, or cosigning on a loan will be reflected in your credit reports and score, and you might wind up being responsible for payments you hadn’t expected. Here are some things you need to know to avoid being affected by your partner’s debts
- Have a financial discussion and be open about your financial past. — Now is the time to be open and discuss your financial goals and positions on incurring debt, spending, and saving. Examine your credit reports together, and if there are delinquencies, find out what led to them. Don’t hide from your financial past.
- Make sure that your own credit remains in good standing. — If you happen to run into trouble financially, then having at least one good credit score to fall back on will benefit both of you.
- Understand what happens when you apply for joint credit. — If you apply for joint credit, know that both parties are fully responsible for the debt. This obligation is not split 50-50. If your spouse can’t make the payments, you are fully responsible for the debt. Also, lenders will examine both spouses’ credit histories. If one partner has a bad credit rating, the lender may decline the application or make the loan more expensive. This is especially true when applying jointly for a mortgage. Since both of you are responsible, you should work together to improve a spouse’s bad credit before making such a major purchase. Situations vary, but sometimes it may pay to apply for a mortgage or other loan on your own if you have sufficient income to qualify. You can then have your spouse pay you his or her share of the monthly payment.
- Be careful when cosigning. — If you become a cosigner on your spouse’s loan, you’ll be liable for the debt if your spouse fails to pay. Don’t cosign unless you’re fully prepared to make the payments, if it comes to that.
- Consider waiting. — If your partner is deep in debt, if may pay to wait to get married. Extra time will enable him or her to work on credit scores, fix back taxes and deal with individual debts. Additionally, a bankruptcy filing may be the relief needed to resolve the pre-marriage debt.
- Consider counseling, prenuptial agreements, and legal guidance. — Get on the same page financially and come up with a plan to help your spouse get his or her finances together. A pre-nuptial agreement can clarify the issues by setting out in writing who is responsible for what. By communicating, understanding your options and knowing your risks and liabilities, you’ll be on the right track to building good credit together.
The experienced and compassionate Ohio debt-relief attorneys at Fesenmyer Cousino Weinzimmer know what you’re going through and will work with you to make sure you understand the options which make sense in your individual case. We have helped many people struggling with these very issues.
Call Fesenmyer Cousino Weinzimmer at one of our conveniently located office branches at 614-228-4435 (Columbus), 937-222-7472 (Dayton), or 877-654-5297 (Cincinnati) or email for a free consultation so we can determine what debt relief solutions will work best for you.