A common concern for those who are planning to get married is how their credit scores will be affected by marriage. The good news is, your credit score is not affected by your change in status from Single to Married.

There are, however, ways in which your spouse’s credit score can affect yours in the future, depending upon how your joint finances are arranged, and it is very important to be aware of them for the sake of the financial health of both parties.

Will Our Credit Scores be Combined to Create a Joint Credit Score?

Your credit reports do not merge because you get married. Both you and your spouse will retain the credit scores you had prior to your marriage. In fact, you retain your own credit score regardless of anything else.

This is because your credit score is tied to your social security number. it does not matter if you change your name. If you do, your new name will simply be listed as an “alias” on your credit report (if you do notice they have split your score, you should contact the credit bureau, as this is likely an error).

Both you and your spouse’s credit scores will not have an effect on each other’s credit scores immediately upon your marriage. You cannot drastically better or worsen your credit by marrying someone with better or worse credit than you.

Also note, you cannot use a spouse’s credit card just because you marry. You will need to contact the credit card company to have yourself added to the account.

Will My Spouse’s Poor Credit Affect Me and My Score?

Although you and your spouse’s credit scores will not reflect each other immediately upon your marriage, they certainly can over time, depending on the financial decisions you make together.

Your scores will remain separate, but actions you take jointly will be reflected in both of your credit scores. For instance, if you take out credit cards together, in both your names, both of you will have your credit score influenced by the activity on that card. In the event lenders pursue you for debt, they can pursue each joint owner of the account.

It is also worth noting that in any endeavor where you both apply for credit, such as a credit card, lenders will look at both of your credit scores. If one of you has poor credit, it may prevent you from being able to get the credit card.

This also applies in the case of home loans. If your spouse has poor credit, or has had a bankruptcy, they will probably not be able to get a home loan. This may mean that you have to take out a loan in your own name only, or, you might be completely unable to get the loan because of your spouse’s poor credit.

Or, the spouse with poor credit may drive up the interest rates and fees on your home loan. The spouse who applies for the loan will need extremely good credit to get it. Having the house in their name only can create complications in the future, for instance, if you divorce.

How you each protect your credit will be important throughout your marriage. If accounts held in both your names are paid on time, it will improve your credit. If you are delinquent in payments on joint accounts, both of your credit scores will suffer, because late payments are one of the easiest ways to damage your credit. Therefore, a spouse who is irresponsible with timely payments can affect your credit score, if they fail to pay on a credit account you own together.

How Do I Prevent My Spouse’s Poor Credit from Affecting Me and My Score?

You can avoid taking out joint credit cards, home loans and other lines of joint credit with your spouse, although, for many people, this is not very practicable. It would, however, prevent your credit scores from affecting each other.

Totally separate finances are not that common among married couples. However, you can make smart financial decisions to keep your scores up, even if you take out joint lines of credit. Paying your debts on time and ensuring both your credit scores stay healthy is the most important thing to remember in this situation. You must also maintain your own accounts and use a credit card in order to maintain and improve your credit. Optimally, credit for both spouses should be good before applying for a large joint purchase, such as a home.

Should I Consult a Lawyer for Concerns with My Future Spouse and Their Credit Score?

If there is an issue with you and your future spouse regarding your credit scores, then you may want to speak to an financial advisor. They can help you figure out if your future plans will be impacted by a bad credit score.

If your future spouse has unpaid debt (like student loans or credit card bills) or any debt in default, then you may want to speak with a family lawyer to understand if your future spouse’s finances will become your responsibility.