Credit Advice

Marriage doesn’t merge your new spouse’s bad credit with your good history


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Credit Advice

Marriage doesn’t merge your new spouse’s bad credit with your good history

Dear Experian,

Is it true that when you get married you automatically inherit your spouse's bad debt or bad credit and does it show on your credit report? I have a close friend that said that is exactly what happened to him. I seriously doubt him, but just the same I need to know the truth. I will be marrying soon and was wondering if I should be concerned due to my future spouse's "bad debt."


Dear ITO,

Your question is the flip side of the previous question. Getting married does not cause your credit history to be combined with your new husband’s. That doesn’t mean his bad credit history won’t impact your ability to get credit together, though.


Each of you always will have separate credit histories. But, when you apply for credit jointly, the lender will consider both of your credit histories when making its decision. While your history may be sparkling, his flawed history could cause you to be declined or to pay higher interest rates and fees.


This is particularly true in mortgage lending. Because a home purchase is such a large debt, both of your credit histories, as well as income and other financial obligations, will almost certainly be considered to determine if, as a couple, you qualify for the loan.


States with community property laws may consider any credit applications or debts incurred during your marriage as joint debt. That doesn’t mean your credit histories are combined, but it does mean your new husband’s bad history could influence every credit decision. This might be what happed to your friend, and he mistook it to mean his credit history had been merged.


This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t marry your fiancé. Instead, have a serious conversation about your current financial lives. Share your credit histories and other financial details, both good and bad. Then, put together a plan to address any issues.


Money management, including credit, is the most common source of marriage difficulty. Going into the marriage with complete awareness of the financial baggage you both carry, and with a plan to resolve any issues, is a great way to increase your chances of living happily ever after.


Thanks for asking.

- The "Ask Experian" team

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