February 12, 2021
Summary: They say love is blind. But you're not blind to your partner's massive debt. Should you get married or not? Find out if it makes sense to marry someone who's in debt.
So, you're in love, and you're ready to settle down and get married. But your significant other is carrying around some additional baggage. And no, it's not an ex; it's debt. You may be on the fence about whether or not their debt is a deal-breaker. You're wondering if you should marry someone with debt. And, if so, what you are getting yourself into? Well, before you say I do, let's get into some of the less romantic stuff.
Let's get one of your primary questions out of the way. Do we share everything, including debt? You do not have to worry about your partner's current debt becoming yours as well. Any debt that is in their name before marriage is theirs. After you tie the knot, this may be a different case depending on the state you get married in.
The states listed below have community property laws. Community property includes any account, joint or separate, opened during the marriage. Therefore, any debt incurred, including a mortgage, is both people's responsibility. These states fall into this category:
There are different kinds of debt, and you should evaluate them differently. The following are the most common forms of debt.
Having a significant amount of consumer debt is generally frowned upon by most people. Have a very open dialogue with your partner about the source of their consumer debt. You are entering into a long life partnership, so you should have this conversation with love and patience as you seek to gain understanding, not judgment and blame.
You may find out that your partner had to stop working for six months to take care of an ill family member and had problems catching up. Or, upon evaluation, you may find that your partner is a compulsive shopper. Either way, this needs to be a safe and open dialogue between you and your partner so you can evaluate the financial aspects of your relationship.
Perhaps your partner is coming into the marriage with a large amount of medical debt. Unfortunately, this is a common form of debt in the United States as medical bills can quickly add up. If this is the case, it may be necessary for the two of you to evaluate any need for any upcoming or remaining medical treatments and the Insurance options available to you.
If your partner incurred the debt while uninsured but is currently insured, they may be able to get these bills paid off. This is usually true for people who are now insured via government-provided insurance, particularly those who've received emergency medical services. If the medical debt is in collections, find out what can be done to reduce the bill by calling the medical provider. It may be possible to get on a payment plan with a low-interest rate.
Student loans are prevalent as the cost of tuition steadily increases every year. Depending on your partner's education level, they may be walking into the relationship with a hefty amount of debt. There are government programs that may help your partner alleviate some of this debt.
If your partner is considering pursuing a degree during your marriage, find out if their employer offers tuition reimbursement. There are many opportunities to seek an education without the large price tag. As a team, do some digging because it may save you both thousands later.
Is your partner coming into the marriage with property? Some consider this type of debt "good debt," but you may see it as debt. If your partner is coming into the marriage with a Mortgage, you will not be responsible unless they refinance the property to include the both of you.
You may want to consider your partner's Mortgage as good debt if they receive cash flow or income from their property from monthly rent or Airbnb profits. Have an open and honest conversation about the mortgage(s) in their name. If the property is more of a liability with excessive expenses instead of an asset that produces income, they may consider selling it.
If your partner is a business owner, they may have some debt. Running a business often requires outside funds to help with overhead costs like paying employees, leasing a space, and general operational expenses.
Have an open conversation with your partner about the profits and losses of the business. Is the company doing well, or is your partner struggling to keep things afloat? These details matter, especially in the community law states listed above.
It is essential to have a common or shared view about debt as these values and viewpoints will carry into your relationship. As a society, we spend and earn money every day. Whether or not you have this conversation, it is likely to come up more often than you feel comfortable admitting.
If your partner has a spending problem, but you want to save up for your future kids' college funds, you can see where things can begin to go south. Are you grossed out by the thought of being in debt, and does your partner not see it as a big deal? These are seemingly insignificant details that can grow to kill your honeymoon phase quickly.
Determining what your collective and respective short and long-term goals are can help you identify that debt with large monthly payments may have to go so that you can save up and have an incredible yearly vacation. Transparency and planning can help you reach your marriage goals instead of leaving things unspoken and kicking them under the bed.
This next step is essential to tie everything together before you tie the knot. Determine if it's the two of you against the world as partners with a shared vision. Or are you two people who love each other but will tackle your problems individually? Maybe you don't care to help your partner fix their debt. If that is the case, have an open dialogue about how you will approach debt in your marriage, so there are no assumptions or unmet expectations.
If you two are in it to win it together, create yearly and monthly goals. Study the debt snowball method and get serious about conquering your debts as a team. The joint effort will help you reach your goals together. Make sure the two of you are on the same page, so you don't get dragged down trying to build while your partner isn't on the same page with you or vice versa.
Conversations about money and debt are rarely easily had but doing so can save you a world of trouble and heartache in the future. We hope these tips and strategies help you have meaningful and transparent financial conversations with your partner before you tie the knot.
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Here’s a list of guides for other states.
Being sued by a different debt collector? We’re making guides on how to beat each one.
Is your credit card company suing you? Learn how you can beat each one.
Being sued over an auto, home, personal, or student loan? Find out how to make a solid defense.
Need more info on statutes of limitations? Read our 50-state guide.
Need help managing your finances? Check out these resources.