How Not to Pass Bad Credit Along in a Marriage

Marriage is both an emotional and a financial commitment.

Marriage is both an emotional and a financial commitment.

While you may start a new life with your spouse when you get married, you can't run away from your past, particularly regarding financial missteps. If you have bad credit, it won't simply go away when you get married. However, with careful planning you don't have to pass along your bad credit in a marriage. Where you live and how you manage your credit can help determine how much your bad credit will affect your marriage.

State of Residence

If you have bad credit, it can be comforting to know that there is no such thing as a joint credit report. After you get married, the information on your credit report does not get transferred to your spouse's report. However, if you continue to make late payments or otherwise have credit trouble, living in a community-property state can prove problematic for your spouse. In the nine community-property states, all credit obtained after the date of marriage is a joint responsibility of both spouses. Even if you file bankruptcy, creditors can legally go after your spouse for repayment. This is not true in the common law states that make up the majority of the United States.

Titling of Accounts

In the majority of states, as of publication, if you keep your credit accounts in your own name, you won't affect your spouse even if completely default on your loans. To prevent your bad credit from affecting your marriage, you shouldn't allow your spouse to sign on to your credit accounts. In the community-property states, this method of titling may not matter, because debts and income after marriage are shared. The nine community-property states are California, New Mexico, Idaho, Washington, Nevada, Texas, Arizona, Wisconsin and Louisiana, according to the IRS.

Applying for Joint Credit

If you are trying to keep your bad credit history out of your marriage, you should avoid applying for joint credit. When you apply for joint credit, your creditor will review both of your credit reports. Your bad credit history is likely to taint your application, possibly resulting in the denial of the application. At the very least, you should expect a loan with a higher interest rate than your spouse with good credit could have achieved on her own.

Responsible Credit Behavior

Over time, even a bad credit history can fade in significance. The single most important contributor to your credit score is your payment history. The longer you can make timely payments the more likely your credit will rebound. While negative accounts such as charge-offs and bankruptcies can remain on your credit report for seven to 10 years, over time the negative effect will lessen. Once these items completely fall off your report, you won't have to worry about your poor credit past being passed along in your marriage.

About the Author

After receiving a Bachelor of Arts in English from UCLA, John Csiszar earned a Certified Financial Planner designation and served 18 years as an investment adviser. Csiszar has served as a technical writer for various financial firms and has extensive experience writing for online publications.

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