Thursday, January 12, 2012

Do My Fiance's Bad Debts Become My Responsibility After Marriage?

Reader Question: 


I am planning to marry my girlfriend of 3 years this summer. I pay my bills on time, carry low balances on my credit cards and have a decent credit score, but my fiance's credit is a real mess. We pulled her free credit report to see what was on there and discovered two defaulted credit cards that have gone to collections and a car repossession from 2007. 

This scares me. I love her and want to get married no matter what, but I don't want to marry into her debt. Am I legally responsible for these accounts after we get married? Will they then show up on my credit report and trash my good credit score, or am I safe?




Marrying your girlfriend doesn't automatically make you responsible for her debts. You don't mention where you live, but even couples living in community property states (states that consider assets and debts the responsibility of both spouses, no matter which spouse's name is attached to the item or liability) protect you from "marrying into debt" so to speak.

Marry her, not her debts.
Any property you and your fiance own individually of one another before you get married, remains yours alone. The same is true for debts. Because you aren't legally responsible for a significant other's debts, they will not appear on your credit report. Contrary to popular belief, the credit bureaus do not merge the credit reports of married couples. Everyone has his or her own credit report. Provided you continue paying off your debts responsibly, you will keep your good credit score.

But don't breathe a sigh of relief just yet. You aren't quite in the clear. If your girlfriend's creditors sue her after you get married, they can do things like garnish her pay or garnish your joint checking account. The financial pitfalls of a debt collection lawsuit affect both spouses, not just the one who legally owes the debt.

The car repossession on your girlfriend's credit report should fall off sometime this year. You don't mention how old the collection accounts are, but the Fair Credit Reporting Act limits those to a reporting period of 7.5 years from the date your girlfriend stopped making payments on the cards. Eventually, they'll fall off her report and her score will probably improve. She'll need a decent credit score if the two of you want to make big purchases together after marriage, such as a home or new car. But don't worry about creditors being able to legally come after you for your fiance's debts. You simply aren't liable.

Best of luck,


  1. congratulations guys, quality information you have given!!! debt relief

  2. I became sick, loss my job and my great credit in 2008. Only 2 of my accounts have been paid because my wages were garnished. I am now beginning to handle bills other than my rent. So how do I start re-building my credit? My FICO it's the lowest I've ever seen (300s). Should I wait for some of these debts to fall off? What's your advise? Please help me. Thanks!