Considering marriage? Consider your partner’s debt, too.
Unromantic as it may sound, the debt both partners bring to your marriage will affect your relationship, not to mention your finances.
Debt and other financial challenges are among couples’ top causes of arguments and divorce, says Karen Richel, a financial counselor and financial literacy educator for University of Idaho Extension.
Considering marriage? Richel suggests observing your beloved’s financial habits, asking them how much money they owe and to whom, and talking together about your shared goals.
When you’re dating someone, pay attention to whether they blow through money or pay their bills on time.
After deciding to marry, put off the wedding for at least four seasons, Richel advises. That gives you time to see their behavior in different situations that arise throughout a year. It lets you watch their spending patterns.
For richer for poorer … forever?
It’s also important to understand how community property laws affect your debts.
In general, the debt your partner took on before you got married is their debt to keep. When you marry someone, you don’t automatically become responsible for half their premarriage debt, even if you split up.
But in Washington and Idaho, that changes post-nuptials. In community property states, all debts incurred during a marriage belong to “the community” — i.e., the married couple. So if your spouse got a boat loan and failed to make the payments, creditors could go after you.
The sooner everyone’s debt is paid off, the sooner you’re both able to move forward — together.
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