Getting Married in 2021? Why You Need to Talk as a Couple About Credit Card Debt

by Kimberly Rotter | Updated July 21, 2021 - First published on April 24, 2021

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A married couple walking out of church holding hands and looking at each other.

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If you're planning to walk down the aisle this year, you need to disclose your credit card debt and discuss financial goals with your partner.

Perhaps you're one of the many couples who had their wedding postponed due to COVID-19. If so, and you're finally getting the chance to walk down the aisle in 2021, there's a lot to be excited about.

But before you begin to plan your new married life together, make sure to address any financial concerns you have. That means discussing any debt before you say, "I do."

Keep reading to learn more about why you need to talk as a couple about credit card debt.

What's mine is yours and what's yours is mine

Once you walk down the aisle and say, "I do," get ready to start sharing your financial lives in addition to your towels. In states with community property laws, both partners equally share the responsibility for repaying debts incurred during the marriage, no matter whose name appears on the debt.

Keep in mind, though, that a divorce decree does not replace your legal obligation to repay debts that are in your name.

Sounds like a conundrum doesn't it? It can be. Because even if the judge says your spouse is responsible to pay off half of a credit card balance that's in your name alone, the credit card issuer will hold you 100% responsible for it -- and can take you to court if you default. And if your partner fails to pay, it'll be up to you to seek a legal judgment and try to collect.

The following are community property states:

  • Arizona
  • California
  • Idaho
  • Louisiana
  • Nevada
  • New Mexico
  • Texas
  • Washington
  • Wisconsin
  • Alaska also allows its residents to opt into a community property system

Even if you don't live in a community property state, you're not necessarily liberated from all of your partner's debts incurred during the marriage.

If the money was used for the benefit of the household, you might be responsible to help repay it. For example, if you shared one car that was in your partner's name, you might be ordered to help repay the car loan. That's one way you could get stuck with your partner's debt.

This is why discussing any debt -- including credit card debt -- before marriage is a must. Debt will only slow you down from reaching your financial goals as a couple.

Plus, it's good to go into the marriage knowing ahead of time if one of you is a saver and the other a spender, or if one of you has trouble managing money. If you both know what you're getting into before you tie the knot, you can work together to improve financial habits and reach the goals that are important to you.

You can work together to develop a debt payoff plan

Being open and honest about your credit card debt before marriage will help you both to work together and figure out how to pay off debt. You'll be able to work out your joint goals as you begin your new partnership together. Plus, you can set ground rules for how you spend and manage money going forward.

Credit card debt can delay your goals

If you don't discuss your credit card debt and personal finances before marriage, you may find it's harder to reach your life goals. Debt, poor credit histories, and low credit scores can significantly impact all areas of your life. Not only will it be hard to apply for new rewards credit cards with great perks, you may struggle to buy a home or even to start a family if you have a lot of debt.

Hidden financial surprises are not fair or fun

There's nothing fun about hidden financial surprises, and it's not fair to keep this from someone you love. You may feel uncomfortable about bringing up credit card debt or other debt that you have, but it's essential to do so early in your relationship.

It feels bad enough when you owe lots of money. And there's plenty of research pointing to the psychological cost of debt. But things could become a lot worse if your partner finds out about your financial troubles after your wedding day. That dishonesty could add even more tension to you and any debt problems.

The bottom line

Planning a wedding is an exciting time, but it's important to consider the future responsibilities you both will have as married partners. Being honest about your credit card debt and future financial goals before you walk down the aisle is the best bet.

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