What happens to debts incurred before marriage?

What happens to debts incurred before marriage?

If it is any relief, you should know that debts incurred before the marriage will not automatically be transferred to the joint property once you are married.

Therefore, debts are the sole responsibility of the person who incurred them and will not become community property.

But, be careful, because there are certain circumstances that can make you liable for each other's debts. For example, the laws of the state where you live can change course.  

Am I Responsible For My Spouse's Debts Acquired Before Marriage?

Not necessarily. The general rule indicates that property and debts acquired before contracting a legal marriage belong only to the individual who contracted them.

If your partner has debts for credit cardsIf the new spouse has any financial obligations, mortgage loans, student loans, child support arrears, or alimony from previous marriages, all of these financial commitments are not a shared responsibility with the new spouse.

Even in states where the principle of community property exists, debts contracted before marriage are not recognized as shared.

However, in an extraordinary situation, it is possible that a spouse may be legally liable for the debtor spouse's premarital personal debts. For example:

  • If the couple obtained a joint loan while unmarried, both partners are responsible for the debt. This is so, only because their name appears on the loan. This would be the case, for example, with a mortgage debt for the purchase of a home.
  • If you obtained a credit card before you were married, where you both sign, and one of the partners buys without authorization from the other, all the debt on the card is shared, regardless of who spends more or less.
  • If you have a car purchased as joint owners, and you both sign on the contract, and also share the insurance policy, and one of you causes an accident with serious damage to the property of a third party, it is also possible that the debts generated by the incident are also yours.

What does community-owned states mean?

In states where the community property concept applies, debts incurred during the marriage are the responsibility of the marital partnership. When a divorce occurs, in these states the property acquired is divided equally (50% and 50%).

The following states follow the community property rule: Louisiana, Arizona, California, Texas, Washington, Idaho, Nevada, New Mexico and Wisconsin.

For example, if you live in one of these states and your wife signs the acceptance of personal student loans, you are both responsible for the debt acquired during the marriage.

In all other U.S. states, property obtained during the marriage is divided "fairly" when a divorce occurs. And the debts usually belong to the one who purchased the purchase contract. Unless it was an asset for the benefit of the entire family unit.

Am I obligated to pay my wife's credit card?

It depends on several factors. If you live in a state with community property rules and the card was acquired during the marriage, you may have to share responsibility for the payments.

Now, if the card and its debt was acquired before marriage and only your wife is the owner and signer, you would not be obligated to pay it. Even in a state based on community property for married couples.

In states where there is no community property regime, credit card debts are owed by whoever signed the contract with the bank that issued the card. For example, if you have a credit card owned solely by you, but you offer an extension to your spouse, then you are responsible for payment of the card, even though it was your spouse who incurred the debt, because the legal owner of the card is the signer.

I am getting married, but my fiancé has debts: what can I do?

If you are thinking of not going ahead with your wedding plans because of your fiancé's debts, or if you have considered divorce because you can no longer cope with the conflicts brought on by your husband's previous debts, the first thing you need to know is that you are not alone.

Money problems between married and cohabiting couples are very common. But there are legal avenues that can alleviate your concerns and allow you to proceed with your wedding plans:

  • You can contact a family law attorney and ask about the advantages of a prenuptial agreement. In this document you and your partner can establish guidelines on how to handle bank accounts, marital debts, finances and personal property.
  • Consider drafting and signing an agreement stating that the couple wishes to handle their debts separately during the marriage, if they live in states where the community property principle exists. Also, ask a lawyer for legal information on this issue.
  • Consider keeping open channels of communication about your own debts. Many couples don't talk about debt because it is a stressful or taboo subject. In fact, in the United States, 30% of couples have at some point hidden purchases from their partners. An attorney experienced in debt and financial management can also give you guidance on how to get out from under your commitments.

US National Credit Solutions is one of the top rated debt settlement companies in the country. In addition to providing excellent 5-star services to our clients, we also focus on educating consumers across the United States on how to better manage their money. Our posts cover topics related to personal finance, saving tips, and much more. We have served thousands of clients, settled millions of dollars in consumer debt.

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