A couple gets married. One has outstanding credit, and the other has terrible credit. What happens to their credit?
The short answer to your question is nothing happens to an individual’s credit score when they get married. There is no such thing as a joint credit score.
One’s credit will only be affected if he/she adds their partner as an authorized user of any other accounts with a less-than-perfect payment history. These accounts could appear on the credit report, thereby damaging the good credit score. On the other hand, the one with the outstanding credit can help improve the other’s credit score by adding them as an authorized user or by co-signing on a small loan, such as an unsecured personal loan. This can help the partner with bad credit establish new credit line, which should have a positive influence on his or her credit score.
A more important question might be for a person with good credit to learn why the other has bad credit. In some states a spouse may be liable for his or her partner’s debt, even if they were incurred before the marriage. If one partner has significant debt it would be wise for the other to consult with a family law attorney in that state to understand a spouse’s liability for a partner’s debts. This might sounds cold-hearted but perhaps the debt-free partner should consider an antenuptial agreement that spells out the responsibilities for the debts of each spouse.
Each spouse should try to pay off any delinquent cards or accounts as quickly as possible to improve their credit.
Lastly, it might be important to understand how a credit score is calculated. Your credit rating is calculated based on several variables, including: your payment history (do you have any late payments, charge-offs, etc.), the amount and type of debt that you owe, if you have maxed out any of your trade lines, and then several other secondary factors like the length of your credit history and how many recent inquiries have been made to look at your credit history.
To learn more, see Is My Spouse Liable for My Credit Card Debt?, and Am I Liable for Debt My Spouse Incurred Before Marriage?, and visit our Credit Resource Page.
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