Is My Spouse Responsible for Debts Incurred Before Marriage?
Debt before marriage
Whether it’s an outstanding credit card payment, student loans, or a monthly car payment, many of today’s singles are entering marriage with the weight of financial debt.
Unfortunately, these debts don’t get “forgiven” when you say “I do”. Not even close. Just in student loans alone, the average millennial just three years ago was carrying almost $30,000 in debt. That was three years ago. It's on the rise. Yikes.
Who is responsible?
Since you incurred this debt before you tied the knot, it’s YOUR debt to pay back. Right?
Some would say that taking care of your own debt before marriage is the only responsible thing to do. Would you want to start off your marriage this way?
Is there any other “responsible” way to deal with debt in marriage that also comes directly from the true heart of marriage?
What’s mine is yours
When two become one in marriage, they commit their lives to one another. We promise to love and sacrifice for each other through thick and thin, through desert seasons and seasons of abundance.
You may have heard the phrase “what’s mine is yours, and what’s yours is mine”. If we can agree that this phrase is a fair assessment of what marriage should encompass, then wouldn’t this apply to debt? If what's MINE is yours, then what's NOT mine is also yours.
When two people get married, everything they physically own individually becomes “ours”. It’s OUR couch, our kitchen, our bed, our car. Even our income.
If you’re married and you have a job or make money somehow, that income isn’t for you is it? It’s for the two of you. It’s up to the two of you to decide how to spend and save that income.
Debt is no different than your income and belongings. Even though those college loans may have one spouse’s name on them, once you get married, that debt becomes both of yours.
You don’t just get to enjoy the strengths of your spouse when you tie the knot. You have to see and experience the ugly parts of their lives and their imperfections. This is part of the beauty of marriage: to see and experience all of each other, and choose to love one another anyway.
It’s kind of like taking on your spouse’s debt as your own, and choosing to take steps to pay it off together.
Sharing debt in marriage
Now that we’ve established that you should share all debts in marriage, let’s talk about how to go about dealing with them together.
Make a debt plan
Sit down to together and map out how much debt you have, and what your plan should be to pay it off as quickly as possible. The faster you pay it off, the less it will cost you in interest.
Do you want some peace in your marital financial lives? Then get rid of your shared debt all together. Focus on it until it’s dead and gone.
Do you have credit card debt? Focus on that first. It’s likely to have the highest interest rate, and is extremely dangerous.
Settle on a total amount of money that you can set aside each month to blast your debt with. Make this a stretch goal!
Stick to your plan
Then, revisit this plan and your progress each month. Did you fall short last month? Ask each other how you can increase the amount that you’re putting towards debt. You need to pay attention to your goals in order to meet them.
When you’re making your plan, figure out a way to celebrate each milestone together. Let’s say the first goal on your list is to pay off your $4,000 of credit card debt in 3 months.
Agree on a date, trip, or a small gift you two could share that would be an exciting reward for clearing your credit card debt. This will help immensely!
The reward does not need to be expensive, nor does it need to cost money at all. Maybe it’s a day trip to that hike you’ve heard so much about but have never tried. As your goals get bigger, celebrate bigger with each other.
It can be extremely fulfilling and rewarding tackling life together and meeting goals with your spouse. You are never far from freedom from debt!