Marrying a Spouse who Declared Bankruptcy

Dear Experian,

I would like to get married to a man who filed for bankruptcy. I have great credit, and he has a new slate. Will it wreck my credit even if we keep our finances separate?


Dear REM,

Individuals each have their own credit report. Getting married or divorced does not automatically cause your credit to be combined or get divided. Credit accounts are reported for each name that is on the account. As long as you don't share accounts, you won't share credit histories.

However, it can be difficult to keep your credit histories entirely separate after marriage for several reasons. Large purchases, for instance buying a home, typically require you to apply jointly so that both names can be on the mortgage and both incomes and credit histories can be considered in evaluating the risk of the loan. Some states have "joint property" or "community property" laws that automatically link your credit contracts, making both of you liable to pay.

So, as long as the bankruptcy appears on his report, it may be more difficult to qualify for new credit. A bankruptcy remains seven years from the filing date for Chapter 13 bankruptcy and 10 years for a Chapter 7 bankruptcy.

It also is important to understand what led to the bankruptcy. Something beyond his control is easy to understand and is not likely to be a problem in the future. If he has problems with managing money and simply overspent his way into bankruptcy, that is another matter entirely and could lead to serious problems in your marriage.

I strongly advise couples to share their credit reports. Sit down and look at them together. Doing so will let you fully understand your financial situation going into the marriage. It will also give you insight into how you each manage your credit, and the opportunity to discuss your individual approaches to money management. You should address any differences you have before you get married, not after problems arise.

Money, particularly how you manage credit, is at the heart of many broken marriages. Agreeing on how you will manage your credit before the wedding will help make your marriage stronger and happier.

Thanks for asking.
The "Ask Experian" team