Marrying into debt: What does it mean for you?

5 December 2018

Everyone would love to start their marriage on a clean slate. But we all have burdens from our past, and sometimes these burdens are financial. So what does it mean for your future if your new spouse is overindebted?

Will you be liable for their debt?

Depending on the type of marriage contract you and your spouse signed, you may be responsible for the debt. If the marriage is in community of property (COP), everything that is accumulated within the marriage – including debt – is considered jointly owned. However, if you enter into a marriage with the accrual system, you will not be liable for the debt that was incurred before the marriage.

Will it affect your credit rating?

It’s not uncommon for a married couple to purchase assets together, especially things such as a house. When you jointly apply for mortgage, your creditors will perform a risk assessment on both of you.

The creditor will check your credit reports, and if they see that your partner has a bad credit history, your combined credit score will drop. This increases the chances of your application being rejected. If approved, the costs of repayment could even be higher because of the risk you pose to the creditors.

Will you have to adjust your spending plan?

When your partner is over-indebted, it is likely to put strain on your household income. This means you and your partner may have to limit your spending to only the essentials. That dream honeymoon might have to take a backseat because you still need to help your partner get out of debt. You might even have to postpone starting a family because your joint income may not be enough to support new mouths to feed.

Will your ability to take out credit be impacted?

If your partner decides to file for bankruptcy later in the marriage, it will be impossible for you to get credit until your spouse is rehabilitated. When you are married in community of property, your assets and liabilities become one estate. So when one party is declares insolvency, the other becomes insolvent too.

How can you help your partner get out of debt?

  • Your partner needs all the support you can provide. Help them pay the debt if you can.
  • Help your partner cut down on spending. Encourage them to stick to necessities, such as food and rent.
  • Encourage your partner to earn an extra income if possible.
  • Refer your partner to a reliable debt counsellor for debt restructuring.

DebtBusters can give you and your partner a fresh start. We can consolidate the debt and have the repayments reduced. Dial 086 999 0606 or email to info@debtbusters.co.za to speak to one of our consultants.