Does getting married mean I take their debts, too?

The following is presented for reference purposes only and is not intended as legal advice.

My boyfriend and I have talked about marriage, but he hasn't proposed yet. Does marriage create additional debt for the other partner? –Susanne

Hi Susanne,

I’m assuming you mean that if one partner has existing debts before marriage do those debts then become both partners’ responsibility after marriage?

In general, the answer is no. Laws vary from state to state, but by and large debt incurred prior to marriage belongs only to the person who created the debt. In other words, if you have $100,000 in student loan debts and then get married, those student loan debts are still your sole responsibility. From a credit and debt collection perspective, your partner would not be harmed by those debts.

Debts incurred during a marriage are a little different. If you live in a community property state, such as Arizona, California, Idaho, Louisiana, Nevada, New Mexico, Texas, Washington, and Wisconsin, all debt incurred during a marriage is considered to be community/household debt, even if only one of you signed the paperwork. That means that any household assets could be at risk if that debt went into default.

Of course, just because one partner isn’t legally responsible for the other’s debt doesn’t mean they won’t be impacted. No matter which party is responsible, that debt will need to be managed and repaid and that will impact household finances.

Prior to getting married it’s important to have a frank and earnest discussion about money – how much you owe, what your goals are, what your priorities are, and how you plan to handle things like the debts one or both of you may be bringing into the union.

Money is a sticking subject in a relationship, and it will stay a sticky subject for as long as you’re together. That’s why it’s in your best interests to always face it head on, together. Good luck!

Who is legally responsible for a bounced check – the payee or the payer? –Carolyn

Hi Carolyn,

If someone wrote you a check and it bounced when you went to cash it, you would not be in trouble. It is pretty much always the account holder’s responsibility to ensure that they are writing checks that they have the funds to handle.

If you attempted to cash a check for an account with insufficient funds usually one of two things would happen. If the account has overdraft protection, you would get your funds and the account holder would be hit with overdraft fees. If there’s no overdraft protection, the check would not clear and you would not receive any funds.

If someone wrote you a bad check you could potentially take them to civil court in order to recover the lost money and any additional damages that were incurred. Be sure to speak with a qualified attorney if you feel legal action is warranted.

Always be careful when writing checks, especially if you’re concerned that you may not have the necessary funds to cover the amount of the check. Besides the fees you’re likely to incur, you risk accounts going past due, plus other damaging marks on your credit report. When you’re walking a financial tightrope, the last thing you need is all the problems a bounced check can bring you.

If you’ve bounced a check or you’re on that line, consider speaking with a debt and budget counselor. They can help you create a workable budget and put a little breathing room back into your finances. Good luck!

Jesse Campbell is the Content Manager at MMI, focused on creating and delivering valuable educational materials that help families through everyday and extraordinary financial challenges.

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