"If I marry you, do I marry your student loans too?" The short answer is 'no' but the long answer is 'yes'. Confusing? Allow me to explain.
How Student Loans React to a Wedding
If you did not sign for the loan, it is not your responsibility. Even in community property states (Arizona, California, Idaho, Louisiana, Nevada, New Mexico, Texas, Washington and Wisconsin), a student loan which originated before marriage is not the partner's responsibility. If a new loan is originated after marriage, you are still not responsible if you didn't sign the papers. That is, unless you live in a community property state. If you do, you are still legally responsible whether you signed or not. So make sure your spouse is really just working late and not pursuing a secret degree in ceramics.
"If my spouse dies, am I responsible for their student loan?"
Again, for most people, you are not responsible in any way, shape or form for someone else's student loan debt. They are not responsible for your debt. Even if your spouse dies with the debt, it will likely not become your problem. There is typically a death discharge associated with the loan. This is true of both federal and private loans. Bottom line, if you did not give consent when the loan was originated, it is not your problem.
So, for a quick answer, marriage doesn't have any affect on student loans. As far as your student loans are concerned, you never got married.
How Student Loans Can Negatively Impact a Marriage
Marriage doesn't affect student loans... but what about student loans affecting marriage? They do. In many, many ways. Brace yourself for the following. We're going to do some deep thinking and planning.
If you dream of buying a house together, your spouse's credit history will affect your chances of getting a mortgage and vice versa. A lender may not want the indebted partner getting into more debt. This is true if you both want to buy a car, boat, RV, business, or anything else on credit. Here's what may keep happening if your spouse has student loan debt:
- Creditors may not want to work with you both because of your spouse's debt
- Creditors may charge a higher interest rate because of your spouse's debt
- You may just have to purchase things in your own name
How Student Loans Can Change Your Financial Trajectory
Furthermore, every dollar going towards their student loan debt is a dollar not being contributed to joint expenses, retirement, or your trip to Tahiti. On a daily basis, your standard of living will suffer when being married to someone in debt. You could be holding them back as well if you're in debt.
When it comes to paying taxes, you'll have to face each other's student loan debt in a very obvious way. Your spouse may not want to file jointly because that would mess with their income-based repayment plan. Filing separately means as a couple you'll miss out on certain tax benefits.
Starting a family may get delayed. Student loans in marriage, even if both parties are not liable, have a way of putting life goals in slow motion. You may have to spend a few more years living like a college student.
A Lack of Money Equals a Surplus of Stress
To drive home the point, a recent survey conducted by Harris Poll stated that money is the leading cause of stress in relationships. Although spouses aren't directly tied to each others' debt, it can still wreak havoc on the relationship. As you can see, marriage doesn't really affect student loans but student loans definitely affect marriage. Consider refinancing to a better rate. This will allow you to get on with your life much faster!