Credit Advice

Getting married when your girlfriend has declared bankruptcy twice

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Credit Advice

Getting married when your girlfriend has declared bankruptcy twice

Dear Experian,

I’m planning to ask my girlfriend to marry me. However, I just found out she has filed for both chapter 7 bankruptcy, in 2000, and chapter 13 bankruptcy, in 2008. I've been told this not good for our future and that it will affect my credit if we do get married. Any insight would be helpful.

- CWC

Dear CWC,

You shouldn’t let your girlfriend’s financial history prevent the marriage, but you need to have a serious conversation about your finances before the wedding.

I don’t know how you “found out” about your girlfriend’s bankruptcies, but if it was through anything other than an open discussion with her, you need to evaluate where your relationship stands. You need to be very open and honest about your finances – both current and past. If you can’t be honest about your finances before the marriage, you won’t be honest about them during the marriage, either.

Trying to keep financial secrets – especially about credit and debt – will wreck a marriage when those secrets come out. And they always do eventually.

Money is the most common source of conflict during a marriage. You need to agree on how you will manage your finances before you exchange vows or your marriage could get off to a very rocky start. 

Filing for two bankruptcies indicates some pretty serious financial management issues that simply cannot be ignored. Please make sure you understand the circumstances and get professional counseling for her if she has a shopping addiction or just needs more structure for budgeting and managing money.

You should both get copies of your credit reports, bank statements, other monthly bills, and the bankruptcy papers and lay them all on the table. Go over them one-by-one and put together a plan to address any issues.

If she is in a Chapter 13 bankruptcy, that likely means she has a court mandated repayment plan. You will need to work together to pay off your debt, her debt, and reduce balances on current accounts. Also, be sure you both understand how the wedding, honeymoon, and associated costs will be funded. Will that be adding to your debt load?

Your credit histories will not be joined by marriage, but they can impact your ability to obtain joint credit after you are married. For instance, her bankruptcies will influence a lender’s decision when you apply for a mortgage because both credit histories will be taken into consideration.

You must come to terms with the effects of her bankruptcies and understand how long you both will need to live with them. The Chapter 7 bankruptcy will be deleted in 2010 and the completed Chapter 13 will be deleted in 2015.

That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t get married. It just means you need to be prepared for the impact that may have on all your credit transactions.

All couples considering marriage should have frank discussions about individual financial management styles and financial goals and objectives. Agreeing on how you will manage your money before your marriage can play a huge part in living happily ever after.

Thanks for asking.

- The "Ask Experian" team

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