Marrying Someone with Student Loan Debt

You’re planning to get married, but your significant other has a considerable student loan? Does this leave you wondering about the consequences of marrying into debt? Before you tie the knot, it’s important to have clarity on marriage and credit.

So let’s take an extensive look at some of the most common concerns about marrying someone with student loan debt. We’ll also cover topics such as student loan debt responsibilities and consolidation options.

Read on!

Common Concerns About Marriage and Student Loans

Recent statistics show that Americans aged 35-49 have the highest student loan debt, with a total of $557.6 billion. However, most individuals who have a student loan belong to the 25-34 age group. This means you’re more than likely dating someone with debt!

In this case, your main concern might be how your prospective spouse’s current credit situation will affect your financial responsibilities.

Let’s review a few of the more prominent questions you may have before marrying someone with debt.

Am I Responsible for My Spouse’s Student Loan Debt Incurred Before Marriage?

One of the most common misconceptions about student loan debt is that all debt obtained before getting married becomes shared debt once you enter a marriage. This is not always the case.

In reality, marrying someone with student loans doesn’t place any legal responsibility on you. The general rule is that any debt incurred BEFORE a couple gets married is defined as “individual property”.

This means the spouse who borrowed the student loan remains individually responsible for its repayment. This frees the other partner from being held liable for this obligation. Therefore the partner without the debt won’t have their credit score affected by the other partner’s private student loans.

However, in some states, such as New York, a professional degree earned during the marriage can be considered marital property due to the lifetime earning potential. And any debt incurred while obtaining what’s considered marital property is usually categorized as marital debt.

Changes to Loan Repayments After Marriage

Combining your household income is a natural progression of things after marriage. Often couples decide to use their combined income to calculate a new repayment plan and cover all their debts. So, both sides are interested to know whether there would be any change in student loans after marriage.

The short answer is no. The marriage won’t change the monthly costs of the initial loan payments. This rule also includes the payments of federal student loans, such as the general Standard 10-year plan. But there are exclusions.

Does Marriage Affect IDR plans?

If the student loan in question features an income-driven repayment (IDR) plan, the monthly payments are based on the borrower’s income and family size rather than the size of the debt.

Thus, setting married could change the primary factors and the monthly repayments. More to the point, an IDR plan could use the married couples combined incomes to establish a new set monthly payment amount. But, how exactly does marriage affect your IDR plan? And, how does filing taxes jointly vs separately affect you?

Three simple factors determine how this works:

  • If a married couple files taxes jointly, their combined income will be used to calculate and determine monthly repayments. Always be sure you know your partner’s credit history status before deciding to complete a joint return.
  • If the couple is filing taxes separately, the IDR payments will be based solely on the income of the partner who incurred the initial debt. Filing separately might be a good idea if one of the spouses is lower-paid and eligible for substantial itemizable deductions.
  • The only exception to the first two factors is the Revised Pay As You Earn Plan (REPAYE). In this instance, the combined income is calculated and used to determine a new repayment plan. This is regardless of the partners’ tax filing status.

Am I responsible for My Spouse’s Student Loan Debt Incurred AFTER Marriage?

Another popular question potential spouses ask is, “Am I responsible for new student loans when married?” Unfortunately, the answer here is a little more complex. Your responsibility to your spouse’s student loans incurred AFTER marriage depends on which state you’re living in.

In the US, the States are divided into two categories — Community property states and Separate property states.

Community property states are:

  • Idaho
  • Nevada
  • Texas
  • Wisconsin
  • Washington
  • Arizona
  • Louisiana
  • California

There, assets and debts owed and incurred before marriage remain separate. But each spouse is liable for half (50%) of the debts incurred after marriage unless they have a legally binding prenuptial agreement, which states otherwise.

In Separate property states, the division of marital property is more complicated since each spouse has a legal claim to a fair and equitable portion of any assets, which may or may not mean a 50-50 split.

It’s important to be aware of your state’s individual laws before you inadvertently become party to paying student loans incurred by your spouse. Applying for student loans when married should only be done after careful consideration and financial analysis.

Will My Spouse’s Student Loan Debt Affect My Credit Score?

If your new spouse has student debt, you might also be wondering what these debts will do to your credit score after marriage. For the most part, spousal debt won’t affect your credit score unless you co-signed.

What happens when a spouse co-signs student loans?

When you are a co-signer on your spouse’s student loan, you automatically accept responsibility for repayment. And if your spouse defaults on payments, your credit score will be negatively impacted.

In addition to affecting your credit score, co-signing a defaulted student loan will also undermine your ability to obtain other forms of credit. These include credit card debt and vehicle financing. It will also hamper bigger life choices such as mortgages, where the bank would need to consider combined incomes and debt-income ratio.

Already defaulted student loans

What happens if your prospective spouse has already defaulted on their student loans? How does that affect your credit report? The good news is, marrying someone with defaulted student loan debt won’t affect your personal credit score. Your credit score remains your own unless you co-sign a consolidation loan.

How Does Marriage Affect FAFSA?

If you’re planning to continue your studies after the wedding, you should know how marriage and FAFSA work together.

While a married couple wishing to further their studies could still qualify for federal and student loans, a married status changes the dependency status on the Free Application for Federal Student Aid or FAFSA.

In other words, a married status deems you independent for federal financial aid. When you’re considered an independent student, the government reviews a combined household income to determine the type of aid you can get. And financial aid for married couples is difficult since a combined income may not qualify you for grants.

Student Loan Debt and Divorce

While divorce is not on your mind when you’re planning your fairytale wedding, it’s important to consider all the scenarios. How would a divorce affect your credit history?

Any type of loan incurred after marriage is generally regarded as marital debt, also sometimes called marriage debt. In the event of a divorce, the debt will be split equitably. If you live in a community property state, the total debt will be split in half, and each partner will share the responsibility of the repayment. Failure to do so will result in a bad credit score.

In Separate property states, the court has the final word regarding what’s a fair and equitable division for both spouses.

Is Consolidating Student Loans with Your Spouse Possible?

If you have student loans with high-interest rates, the good news is that they can be refinanced. Spousal consolidation student loans are a common way for couples to get a handle on the burden, adjusting the repayment terms.

As a spouse, you could co-sign a refinancing and consolidation loan that combines both parties’ outstanding student loans at a much lower interest rate. Bear in mind, however, that adding your name as a co-signer will make you responsible for half of the repayment, even in the unfortunate case of a divorce.

Strategies to Assist a Spouse with Student Loans

Marrying someone with high student loan debt can place tremendous stress on the whole family. Helping your partner with their student loans is a huge responsibility. The upside is that an adjusted gross income in the household will go a long way to finalizing the debt and freeing up money for that much-needed mortgage, for example.

Some ways you can make student loans and marriage work include the following:

  • Extra payments: Make additional payments on top of the minimum repayments. Even small monthly additions will eventually add up.
  • Debt avalanche strategy: This strategy involves listing all the outstanding loans and loan interest rates. In addition to the regular installments, dedicate any extra monthly cash to the biggest account. Continue doing this until the loan is paid off. Then move to the next one.
  • Consider loan repayment assistance programs: Living in certain states will put you in reach of different repayment assistance programs. Some of these include the Teach Iowa Scholar program, where qualified teachers can receive up to $4,000 per year for five years to pay off student loans. Research your state laws and career field to see if similar programs exist for you or your spouse.
  • Consider loan refinance options: You can combine your student loans with your spouse to get better terms, including a lower interest rate and readjusted installments. A student loan refinance company can help you with this important step.

Bottom Line

Student loan debt before marriage can be a very stressful factor. Both partners should be honest and upfront about their financial obligations. This will enable them to make an informed decision about whether to assist with a spousal consolidation and whether to file taxes jointly or separately.

Don’t let premarital debt stand in the way of your happiness by knowing all the ins and outs of marrying someone with student loan debt!

FAQ

Can the IRS take my refund for my wife’s student loans?

If you’re married and taxes are filed jointly, the IRS is well within legal rights to take your entire tax refund to cover the outstanding debt. To avoid this, you can file an injured spouse claim form referred to an IRS form 8379. This is used in the instance of an innocent spouse as part of the innocent spouse relief program.

Is there a way for military spouses to deal with student loans?

Military spouses will be happy to know there’s help at hand! For members who qualify, there’s a program where the Army will pay up to 33.33% of the principal balance every year for three years. This means you could receive up to $65,000 in loan assistance. This money, however, can only be used to pay off federal student loans.

Can I combine my student loan debt with that of my spouse?

You won’t be able to combine your student loan with that of your spouse. The best option would be to refinance your existing loans and have your spouse added as a co-signer. With reduced interest rates, this is a popular option for newly-wed couples to handle their debt.

When you get married does your credit combine?

Marriage won’t automatically merge you and your partner’s credit histories. Thus, marrying someone with student loan debt can’t hurt your credit score. If the loan is co-signed, however, you share the repayment responsibility and any failure to make installments on time can hurt your credit score.

ABOUT AUTHOR

Proudly South African, I have a history in psychology, as well as administration, but writing is my first love. I’ve been a full-time copywriter for four years and create SEO-friendly blogs, case studies, web content, landing pages, reviews, whitepapers, and more. Other than that, I enjoy helping people discover their potential through coaching, taking care of my two darling dogs, and saving the world one charity project at a time.

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