Is your soon-to-be spouse over-indebted? Take these steps to not only protect your relationship, but also your credit rating.

By Athenkosi Sawutana

When people get married, they vow to stay together for better and for worse. However, marrying someone who is over-indebted is far from desirable. Not only can it ruin your financial plans, but your relationship can also take a knock.

So, before you say, “I do”, here are some of the actions that you can take to ensure that your partner’s indebtedness does not affect you:

Think about your marriage contract

Marriage in community of property is not an option as you will be liable for any further debt your spouse accrues once you are married, says Tanya Haffern, a wealth coach.

Haffern suggests that you marry out of community of property with the accrual system.

When you’re setting up your antenuptial contract, any assets that you and your partner have owned prior to getting married can be excluded in the accrual. However, those that are accumulated during your marriage are jointly owned. In this instance, make sure you exclude all debt from the marriage contract.

“Be very careful about the kind of marriage contract you sign with someone who has too much debt. If their debt becomes your responsibility, you will soon discover the old maxim, ‘when money goes out the front door, love goes out the back door’ to be very true,” warns Haffern.

Keep your financial affairs separate

You can start by separating bank accounts. Protecting your credit rating should be your priority. You can explain to your partner that either both of you will go down in flames or one of you will be credit worthy.

“You are going to need one strong partner to secure home loans and car loans going forward, so it should be good motivation,” says Haffern.

Know why the debt was accumulated

Investigate the cause of your partner’s indebtedness. Does your partner have a gambling or drinking problem? Or was it a bad business decision?

“Make sure you know all the facts, so you have a good idea as to whether this behavior will be repeated in future,” says the wealth coach.

Guide your partner out of debt

Discuss ways to cut expenses until you are back on track. You can survive without eating out once a week or shopping for new clothes every weekend.

Ensure you agree upfront how the expenses within the marriage will be shared. If your partner cannot stick to covering his or her expenses, tackle it early on and cut your partner’s credit cards if needed.

It is crucial that married couples know how to talk about money – start early and keep communication open and honest.

This article has been prepared for information purposes only and it does not constitute legal, financial, or medical advice. The publication, journalist, and companies or individuals providing commentary cannot be held liable in any way. Readers are advised to seek legal, financial, or medical advice where appropriate.