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Who's responsible for debt when getting married?

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    Who's responsible for debt when getting married?

    When you get married, who's responsible for the debt coming into the marriage in your opinion? Are you responsible for only your debt, or are you both responsible for each other's once you married? If you got married and one person had debt and the other didn't, how did you handle that? Would you handle it differently now that you have gone through it? Did this issue cause any marital problems?

    #2
    I feel our marital situation was a little more complicated as my wife and I were both living established single lives when we met (ages 26 and 30) so we had to liquidate a house and combine our lives emotionally and physically in a big way. While my wife worked I have been the main income in our family so I have taken on her debt from student loans and credit cards. I lucked out and got into a great job off a community college degree so I have no student loan debt while my wife is unfortunately on the exact opposite end of that spectrum with a degree from a great college with a good little bit of debt and no job to show for it. But at the moment she is raising our beautiful baby girl so I see this as a win in a big way. The debt hasn't really been a point of contention as I knew about this debt before we were engaged and I knew it was a package deal that was well worth having (kinda like a Ferrari 458 Italia at a Chevy Malibu's price, yeah you still have a car payment for the next 3-5 years but who cares!)
    As my father in law told me before we got married, " there are 3 main things that married couples fight about..." And first and foremost was MONEY! Open conversation about money with the attitude that everyone's on the same team will show a lot about who will bear what load and burden, but ultimately IMO it is something each couple will have to figure that one out on their own but both parties HAVE to be happy about the decision.
    I know I'm probably rambling but hopefully something in here helps you out

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      #3
      Originally posted by bride2b View Post
      When you get married, who's responsible for the debt coming into the marriage in your opinion? Are you responsible for only your debt, or are you both responsible for each other's once you married? If you got married and one person had debt and the other didn't, how did you handle that? Would you handle it differently now that you have gone through it? Did this issue cause any marital problems?
      This is really a duplicate of your other question about combining finances and I'll give the same answer. The two shall live as one. Once we are married, there ceased being "mine" and "hers" and everything became "ours" - assets and debts. Everything became joint and we worked together to spend, save, and pay debt.
      Steve

      * Despite the high cost of living, it remains very popular.
      * Why should I pay for my daughter's education when she already knows everything?
      * There are no shortcuts to anywhere worth going.

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        #4
        There's the "how it should be" answer and then there is the LEGAL answer.

        As far as I know, a spouse is NOT legally liable for any debt baggage which the other spouse may be bringing into the marriage. However, it is also my belief that once you are married, both spouses are legally liable for any debt either one contracts after the marriage date.

        Lawyers out there: am I right or am I just blowing hot air?
        Retired To Win
        I blog weekly on frugal living, personal finance & earlier retirement at:
        retiredtowin.com
        making the most of my time and my money

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          #5
          Complicated question! There is the legal answer, the general answer from one side or another, and then the answer for you as a couple. Really that last one is the only one that matters. When I was married we treated debt as OUR debt and worked to reduce it together, though ultimately it was our responsibility and came with us when the marriage ended.

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            #6
            Not married so my opinion may not be as legitimate, but the way I see it is as long as you're going to be making big purchases, investments, and life choices together, if debt is an obstacle before one can get to those things, it only makes sense to see it all as one and manage it in the most efficient way between both people. On the other hand, there may be certain circumstances (maybe spending issues) that one would want to keep separate and not 'bail out' the other repeatedly.

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              #7
              What's mine is his abd what's his is mine. Marriage to me is about joining your lives in every way. I personally cannot understand the his bill / her bill or / his money/ her money approach.

              Comment


                #8
                Someone can give you the legal definition but the law only comes into play if you get a divorce and pay a lawyer to hash out a settlement. For all intents and purposes if you get married all debt or savings each person brings is between the two of you to decide how to deal with.

                My wife and I treated our finances separately for the first five years of our marriage. We didn't open each others mail, didn't have joint accounts and didn't ask questions about how the other spent money. That changed when we started planning for the future and realized we can get so much more accomplished if we worked towards the same goals financially.

                As a married couple you will have more financial resources together than separate. You will also have more expertise by pooling your skills. If you want different things or have big red flag issues about money going in, figure it out before getting married. Hoping for the best if you have serious misgivings will probably lead to serious trouble and divorce is the fastest path to bankruptcy I know of.

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                  #9
                  Everything that was once "his" and "hers" should become "ours." But, I'm sure that you can find a lawyer that could legally separate everything for you.

                  But, if you need to roll out the legal team before you even say I do, then maybe you should rethink getting married in the first place.
                  Brian

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                    #10
                    Once you get married, you have to take care of each other. For richer or for poorer!

                    Comment


                      #11
                      I think the question was answered when you decided to get into a marriage.

                      Here are the following possible scenarios.

                      A. He/She has a spending problem, has way more debt than income, you wish to marry this person, the debt is more or less yours.

                      B. He/she is not thinking about working or has a job, the debt is now yours.

                      C. He/She can make enough to pay off the debt, then the debt is hers.

                      My wife and I both have debt going into the marriage. She has 100k of student loans, and I have a 70k mortgage. If she made 20k/year or doesn't have a job, then her 100k debt is now my debt. But since she makes 160k/year, she can be responsible for her own student loans. If you want someone to pay for a debt in which the income cannot sustain it, then you are dragging out the debt for the household and paying more interest.

                      Comment


                        #12
                        Originally posted by bride2b View Post
                        When you get married, who's responsible for the debt coming into the marriage in your opinion? Are you responsible for only your debt, or are you both responsible for each other's once you married? If you got married and one person had debt and the other didn't, how did you handle that? Would you handle it differently now that you have gone through it? Did this issue cause any marital problems?
                        This comes down to the individual couple's beliefs on marriage. If you follow the traditional whats mine is yours and whats your is mine philosophy then their debt absolutely becomes your debt. Also if you share income then it only makes sense that you would share debt. Only in the case that both individuals in the marriage have completely separate finances would I say that you would not be required to take on your spouses debt. But for the majority of married Americans the answer is one persons debt becomes a mutual debt once you tie the knot.

                        Comment


                          #13
                          Depends on the state...most debt prior to marriage is considered separate. However, if one spouse was previously sued (at least in California) and there was a judgment against them, there is a civil code C.C.P. 700.160 that allows the creditor to attach any bank account that has that persons name on it. Again, it would depend on what state and what the community property laws are in that state.

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