How to Deal With Debt as a Couple? – A Guide

Mar 19, 2022 | Debt Relief

It’s fairly common for one or both partners to bring debt into a marriage, and in some cases, the amount can be significant. There is no surefire way to tell what effect debt might have on a relationship going forward, with some couples addressing it together and others choosing to part ways. If you feel short-changed when it comes to how you and your spouse deal with debt, speaking with a debt relief attorney might be in your best interest, all the more so if things go south.

Number Speak

Anyone wondering what percent of marriages end in divorce because of money should know that numbers don’t speak too kindly when it comes to finances and relationships. Data collated by CNBC Select and MarketWatch shows that:

  • 35% of respondents in an online survey said their relationships experienced stress because of finances
  • 38% of couples steer clear of dating if they’re in debt
  • Three out of five people have thought about postponing getting married to avoid the burden of their partner’s debt
  • Almost 30% of boomers and over 40% of Gen Xers say their marriages ended because of financial disagreements
  • More than 50% of people think that living with a partner who is in debt is a major cause for considering divorce

What the Law Says

Given that money issues in marriage can lead to unforeseen and unwelcome circumstances, looking at what the law says about debt in marital relationships might be in your best interest. Bear in mind that where you live has a bearing on whether you take on your spouse’s debt when you get married.

  • Community property states. If you live in California or any of the other community property states, the law views all the debt you and your spouse incur after marriage as community responsibility. This implies that both spouses are equally liable to repay the debt. You would even be liable for debt you did not agree to or know about. This is also the case if you live in Alaska and opt for community property rules.
  • Common-law states. States that follow common-law rules give people the ability to build debt as individuals after they get married. In this case, the liability to repay the debt rests with the person whose name appears on the debt. A couple might incur joint debt, and both partners are liable if their names appear together on the debt in question. In addition, the law may assign joint responsibility if a debt is beneficial to the couple or its family in similar measures.

How to Deal With Debt as a Couple?

Not all couples deal with debt in the same manner. However, following a few simple measures might be beneficial to avoid heartache further down the road.

  • Determine how each partner will repay debt incurred before the marriage
  • Create a roadmap to repay the debt you incur after getting married
  • Work on and stick to a realistic household budget
  • Never hide any kind of debt from the other (there’s no telling how far it might progress)
  • Build a combined emergency fund
  • Determine if you wish to handle paying bills together
  • If the debt exceeds your comfort level, seek professional advice


Playing the blame game rarely works when it comes to dealing with debt as a couple. If anything, it can sour a bitter relationship even more. Marriage, after all, is a lot about teamwork. Couples that find themselves embroiled in debt, either because of one partner or both, should try to look for ways they can handle it together.

If you’ve reached a stage where you have trouble repaying the money you owe, getting in touch with an attorney who specializes in debt relief might work well for you.