When contemplating marriage, it is advisable to have open and honest discussions with a prospective spouse about credit histories, money management and overall philosophies about how to handle household finances. In the course of these conversations, it may emerge that one half of the couple intending to wed has previously filed for bankruptcy protection and received a discharge of debts. The partner who has no such bankruptcy history will likely want to know how their beloved’s filing may impact their credit record, if at all. Luckily, the answers to this question are rather straightforward.
The bottom line is that adverse credit events such as a bankruptcy in a potential spouse’s past will not have any direct impact on their intended spouse’s credit record or standing once they have wed. The act of getting married does not result in the linking of credit histories and does not create liability on the part of one party for the prior debts of the other. Only the person who originally incurred a debt will be held responsible for it, and many such debts were likely already eliminated by the bankruptcy discharge. Even undischargeable debts such as child support or federal student loans will remain the sole responsibility of the spouse in whose name they were incurred.
However, it is worth noting that the low credit score one partner has as a direct result of their bankruptcy filing may impact the amount of interest a couple will have to pay if they decided to incur future debt jointly. For that reason, it may be wise for the spouse with good credit to apply for things such as mortgages or car loans in their name alone in order to mitigate the harm the other spouse’s poor credit may cause. This can be a smart strategy for the near term, while the previously bankrupt half of the couple works on building a better credit profile.
With responsible management of credit going forward, it need not be long before both spouses enjoy good credit and all of the freedom that can entail. To hasten the process of raising the credit score of one spouse, it is often recommended that a secured credit card be acquired as a way to demonstrate financial responsibility and eventually receive larger extensions of credit. In addition, the spouse with good credit may wish to add their husband or wife as an authorized user on an existing credit card account that is in good standing. This helps give the credit-challenged spouse a leg up when it comes to re-establishing their borrowing power.