With many myths associated with marriage and debt, we thought we’d put together a blog post explaining everything you need to know about how your partner’s debt will affect you.


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Marriage and debt

It’s commonly believed that when you get married, your credit record will link up with your spouse’s, creating a joint file. This is not the case. Only joint credit will link you and your spouse together, so marriage alone is not enough to impact your credit rating.

Another common myth associated with marriage is that once a partner changes their last name, their credit history is deleted, and their file starts again. This is false – your credit history will remain the same; the only difference to your file will be your new name, which will have been added as an alias. If you have recently got married, you will have to inform your creditors of this name change so that it appears on your file. Only once creditors have updated their information will your credit record change to reflect this.

Joint debts

Whilst marriage is not enough to link you and your partner’s credit files, joint credit applications will make an association between you and your partner. Whether you open up a joint account, apply for a joint credit card or get added to an account with your partner, all of these scenarios will join you and your partner together. While this can be great for couples with a solid financial history, if you or your partner has a background of defaults, it can affect the other’s file.

Even if your joint accounts are up to date and you have no current issue with debts, when you establish a joint account, your partner becomes a financial associate and will be named as such on your file. Creditors may choose to look up your partner’s history, which could affect any future credit applications.

Should you or your partner have a poor credit history, it might be best for you both to keep your finances separate and work on rebuilding the credit file in need.

Secret financial lives

Despite the effect that your partner’s debt can have on your own ability to access loans or services, a surprisingly high number of people fail to discuss their debts with their loved ones. When we conducted research last year into mental health and money problems, we discovered that 80% of people wouldn’t tell their partners about their debts because they were worried about how they would react.

Financial privacy is one thing, but if secret debts threaten the stability of the whole household, then it can be a real issue – and an added strain on a relationship. Before linking your finances with a partner, it is important to know their credit history.

Could you be liable for your partner’s debts?

One thing that scares many people is whether they are personally liable for their partner’s debts. For the most part, you can only be held responsible for debts that are in your name or held jointly in your name – so if you have a shared credit card or bank account with an overdraft, then you should check the balance regularly.

If you and your partner are jointly liable for debts, then that doesn’t mean you owe just half the money. The creditor can demand that you repay the full amount if they can’t get it from the other account holder.

There are some household bills like council tax where you will be considered liable if you’ve been living in the property for a period but for the most part, debts in your partner’s name remain solely their responsibility.

Having said that, if you share a mortgage and your partner is facing bankruptcy then this can have an effect on your stability, although you should be able to protect your half of any equity in the property. The best thing to do is get debt advice as soon as you know there is a problem.

When a partner becomes an ex

There are many reasons why relationships fail, and the stress caused by debt is a common one. However, if your partner has a lot of unpaid debt and moves out, you may find that collectors and bailiffs pursue them at your address. This can be scary, but you need to stand firm and not allow debt recovery professionals to enter your home. Explain that the debts are not yours and that your ex-partner no longer lives at this address.

If creditors continue to chase you for debts that aren’t your responsibility, then you could ask the credit reference agencies to unlink your names from your credit record. However, that will only be possible if you no longer have any financial ties to your ex, including bills and debts in both your names.

Talk to us

If you’re struggling with debt and are worried about telling your partner, or if you’re worried that your partner’s debt situation needs to be addressed, then it’s time to get some informed debt advice.

Our qualified, compassionate advisers have experience in helping both individuals and households deal with their debts and they can help you work out the best solution for your financial difficulties.

Speak to one of our advisers on 0800 316 1833