How does getting married affect my credit?
Marriage does not change your credit score. You and your spouse had individual credit scores and credit histories before you got married, and you still have them afterward. If you marry someone with bad credit, that does not, by itself, cause your credit score to drop. Marrying someone with better credit than you also does not automatically improve your score. Each spouse’s credit score and credit history are important, however, when you apply for any kind of joint credit. From that point onward, each of you could impact the other’s credit score.
It is important to be candid about credit issues prior to and during marriage. The wedding planning stage might be a good time to review one’s credit and see if there are any problems. You can send a Letter to Request a Credit Report to the three major credit reporting agencies. Once you receive the reports, you can review them for errors. You can request corrections on your credit report by submitting a Credit Report Challenge to the credit reporting agency.
When applying for joint credit, lenders, credit card companies, and others consider both of your credit histories for any joint credit application. This might involve a mortgage for a new home, a car loan, or a shared credit card. Creditors want to see that both of you are creditworthy since you are equally responsible for repaying the debt. If one of you has bad credit, you might not be able to get as much financing as you would if you both had good credit. Joint debt, however, goes on both of your credit reports. If you do not make timely payments, both of your credit scores may suffer. If you pay on time, both scores can improve.
Am I responsible for my spouse’s old debts?
Another concern many newlyweds have involves whether their spouse’s creditors can affect their own credit scores. The rules vary from state to state, but generally speaking, any debt that you had prior to the marriage remains your sole responsibility. It should not affect your spouse’s credit. Both of you, however, may be responsible for any debt that you incur while married.
Some spouses use Prenuptial Agreements signed before the wedding or Postnuptial Agreements signed afterward to specify how they intend to handle existing debts. They might agree, for example, that one spouse is solely responsible for a particular debt, or that they plan to share the burden of certain debts.
Preparing a Personal Financial Statement can help each soon-to-be-spouse identify all of their debts and decide how to handle them. Once married, spouses can make a Joint Financial Statement that shows all of their shared debts.
Is it easier to get approved for a credit card after getting married?
Getting a credit card can be easier once you are married, although it depends on the circumstances. Federal law prohibits credit card companies from discriminating on the basis of marital status. This means that they cannot offer you better terms just because you are married. The benefit typically comes from having two incomes.
Some married couples choose to have joint credit card accounts. They must both be able to meet the credit card company’s requirements. A joint account can be helpful if one spouse has better credit than the other. Timely payments on the account can improve the other spouse’s credit score.
Note that opening a joint account differs from adding an authorized user to an existing account. All individuals named in a joint account are responsible for making payments. An authorized user can make purchases with the card, but they are not liable for paying the balance.
It may also be possible for one spouse to apply for an individual credit card account based on both spouses’ incomes. This can be beneficial in situations like the following:
- You are currently unemployed.
- You want a higher credit limit than you could get based on your own income.
- You are concerned that your application might be rejected based on your own income or credit score.
You must have access to your spouse’s income, such as if you have a joint bank account, in order to claim their income on an application.
Does getting married help with getting a mortgage?
Just like with credit card companies, mortgage lenders cannot treat people differently just because they are married or unmarried. Marriage can provide a significant boost when it comes to applying for a mortgage, though, if both spouses work and have a steady income.
Marriage does not affect whether or not you can qualify for a mortgage. A married couple might have an advantage, though, by being able to include two incomes and two credit histories in their loan application. The Loan Agreement would make both spouses responsible for paying back the loan. This gives the lender more options for how to collect if they stop making payments.
Can creditors come after my spouse if they did not sign the application?
A spouse’s responsibility for repaying a debt is reasonably clear in two situations:
- Both spouses signed a loan agreement or other contract creating a debt, so both are responsible for paying the debt.
- One spouse incurred the debt before the marriage and is therefore solely responsible for paying it.
The situation can be more complicated when one spouse incurs debt during the marriage. A creditor’s ability to seek payment from one spouse for another spouse’s debt depends on the laws in the state where the couple lives:
- States with common law property laws: Each spouse is responsible for their own debts unless the debt directly benefits the family, such as debt to pay for food, shelter, healthcare costs, childcare, or education.
- States with community property laws: All debts incurred during the marriage are both spouses’ responsibility.
Creditors can seek payment from either spouse if they are legally responsible for paying it under their state’s laws. A Postnuptial Agreement or divorce decree separating the debts might not stop a creditor from attempting to collect a debt. The laws in your state determine what options are available to creditors.
If you have more questions about how marriage might affect your credit, reach out to a Rocket Lawyer network attorney for affordable legal advice.
This article contains general legal information and does not contain legal advice. Rocket Lawyer is not a law firm or a substitute for an attorney or law firm. The law is complex and changes often. For legal advice, please ask a lawyer.