Merging two people’s lives in marriage does not merge all of their finances, despite misconceptions consumers and even some advisors have, says Bruce Provda, an attorney based in New York City who specializes in financial issues surrounding marriage and divorce.
“The problem is many people do not give this any thought until there is a problem,” Provda says. “Advisors and consumers are often confused because issues of marriage and credit are not something that come up every day.”
A common misconception is that the credit scores of the two people merge once they are married, which is not true, Provda says.
“Marriage does not affect your credit score, even if you take your spouse’s last name,” says Kimberly Foss, president of Empyrion Wealth Management in Roseville, Calif. “If you change your name and report this change to your creditors, you will not have to start from scratch with a new credit history.
“However, there may be some inaccuracies in your credit report during this transition, so it is important to check you credit report frequently during this period, as well as annually thereafter,” she adds.
But the credit scores of both partners can affect any application for a mortgage or a joint loan. “There are many instances where one partner has a terrible credit score and the other has a good score,” Provda says. “In order to get the mortgage or loan, the one with a good score may want to sign the mortgage, but remember, the one who signs it will be the one responsible for the entire debt.”