Ask Leslie: How can I avoid my partner’s debt should we marry?


 How Can I Avoid My Partner’s Debt Should We Marry?

– Debtless

Dear Debtless…

This question is often asked in relation to credit card debt. Similar to the money that you earned before getting married, which belongs to the individual that earned it, debt acquired before the marriage belongs to that individual as well. The key here is not to co-mingle your premarital debt i.e., becoming an authorized user on your spouse’s credit card that is already debt laden. My suggestion is to acquire a new joint credit card where the new debt will belong to both spouses.

Should you wish to be an authorized user on a credit card belonging to your spouse prior to the marriage, be confident that there is no balance owed at the time; otherwise, any current balance attached to that card will also appear on your credit report possibly affecting your credit score.

Just like a new credit card, it is also a good idea to open a new joint checking account where you can contribute money equally in proportion to your respective incomes to pay for home expenses as well as luxury items and entertainment. The new joint credit card would be paid from this new account, keeping your premarital earned income and other accounts separate will protect what you had before entering the marital relationship.

Much like the premarital credit card debt, there may also be student loans, car leases, and even mortgages on pre-owned properties. As for the student debt, it belongs to the person that received the education prior to the marriage, unless the newly joined couple decides to “gift” each other joint finances whereby, the couple acquires and commingles each other’s assets and debts as one.

As for pre-owned property, should the couple decide to share expenses, such as a mortgage, then the couple would be advised to detail the premarital financial purchase (i.e., down payment). Be sure to include the amount already paid towards the mortgage, as well as the split of the asset over and above the original down payment should the couple divorce. In other words, put it down in formal writing similar to an executed deed to keep the financial picture clean and clear or, sell the pre-owned property and start fresh with a joint purchase.

Again, keeping your premarital earned income and other accounts separate will help to protect what you had before entering the marital relationship.


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