The following guest post was contributed by Mary Reed, coauthor of Debt Collection Answers: How to Use Debt Collection Laws to Protect Your Rights. She answers questions about how debt collection laws can protect you against abusive debt collectors.
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A: Amber, before I answer your question, I want to commend you for addressing your concerns regarding your future husband’s financial obligations before you get married. It is very important to get clear about those things before a marriage and to be aware of their potential implications for you as well as your fiance.
Your fiance’s student loan obligation is his responsibility only and that will not change once you marry. He is the one who signed the loan agreement, not you. However, if he is unable to keep up with his loan payments, that fact could affect the both of eventually. For example, he might be sued for the money he owes and if he lost the lawsuit, his wages might be garnished or the money in your joint bank account might be seized; also, his tax refund might be taken to pay what he owes and if you file a joint return then it would be your refund that would be affected as well. Also, his credit history would be damaged and so if you applied for any joint credit — a mortgage for example — it might be more difficult for you to get approved for the credit or to obtain credit with attractive terms. For all of these reasons, if your future spouse began to have problems keeping up with his student loan payments, you would probably want to help pay them even though you are not legally obligated to do so.
One way to protect yourself from these eventualities is to keep your income in an account that is separate from your husband’s after you are married. Also, you might want to consider filing separate tax returns.
In regards to your fiance’s obligation to pay child support, generally the fact that his household income will increase once the two of you are married will not affect the amount of support he must pay. For purposes of calculating child support, his income will be viewed as separate from yours. However depending on the law in your state, there could be situations where there would be exceptions to this general rule. Therefore, you may want to consult with a family law attorney in your area to find out if there are any exceptions that might affect you.
When you meet with the family law attorney, you might also want to find out if the attorney recommends that you and your finance have a prenuptial agreement. This kind of agreement can help protect each spouse from the financial problems of the other and can be used to establish each spouse’s financial rights in the event of a separation or divorce as well. I don’t know if having such an agreement in your case would be advisable because I am not an attorney and I don’t know the details of your finances, but it would be worth looking into and might make you feel more comfortable about your future finances.