Marrying Someone With Student Loan Debt

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Stanley Tate

#1 Student Loan Lawyer

Updated on October 2, 2022

Student loan debt shouldn’t keep you from marrying someone you want to spend your life with. Their debt incurred before marriage doesn’t automatically become your responsibility. But their education debt could impact your future saving, home buying, and family plans.

Marrying someone with student loan debt can be tough, especially if you’re one of the 65% of couples who don’t discuss their finances before getting hitched. The reality is that marriage is hard enough without adding the extra stress from student loan payments that stop you both from improving your collective financial situation.

Ahead, learn what you need to know about marrying someone with student loan debt.

How does getting married affect student loans?

Marrying someone with student loans doesn’t make you responsible. Even if you live in a community property state like California or Texas, you’re not responsible for student loans incurred before marriage.

While marriage may not make you responsible for their loans, it can affect their student loan debt in two ways.

Their monthly payment could increase. But don’t about your spouse getting kicked out of an income-driven repayment plan. Borrowers can stay in an IDR Plan even if their income increases and they no longer have a partial financial hardship.

You may owe more in taxes. If you file taxes separately to avoid having your income included in your spouse’s student loan payment, you could lose benefits like the student loan interest deduction, the Childcare Tax Credit, and the Earned Income Tax Credit.

Learn More: What happens to student loans when you divorce?

Federal student loan repayment options for married borrowers

For borrowers making student loan payments based on their income, the Department of Education will include their spouse’s income the next time they complete their annual recertification, depending on how they file taxes.

Married couples have two options to file a tax return: married filing separately or married filing jointly. Here’s how the Department of Education will calculate the new monthly payment once you’re married:

  • If you file jointly, use your joint adjusted gross income for an income-driven repayment plan and account for your spouse’s student loan debt.

  • If you file separately, use only your income if you’re in the Pay As You Earn, Income-Based Repayment, or Income-Contingent Repayment Plan. The Revised Pay As You Earn plan uses both spouses’ income whether you file jointly or separately.

Each year, you’ll have to complete the annual recertification of family size and income to calculate the payment amount for the next 12 months. You can change plans at any time.

How is income-based repayment calculated when married?

Once you’re married, the payment in an income-based repayment plan is calculated to include your federal student loan debt and theirs if you’re in the same repayment plan and file taxes jointly. Your servicer will prorate your monthly payment based on your share of the combined debt.

If you file taxes separately, each of your individual monthly payments may be higher than it would be if you file jointly.

Using the Department of Education’s Loan Simulator tool, you can estimate your payment under different tax filing statuses and repayment plans.

4 Steps to Take When Getting Married With Student Loan Debt

Step 1 – Understand their student loan debt. Before the wedding, sit down and talk to your partner to determine how much you both owe in debt, including student loans. Ideally, you’ll identify the loan balance, interest rate, the minimum monthly payment, and the type of loans (federal or private). You can find federal student loan information on the Federal Student Aid website, studentaid.gov. Private student loans can be found by checking billing statements or pulling an annual credit report.

Step 2 – Understand how their debt impacts your future. Although marriage doesn’t make you responsible for your spouse’s student loan debt, their loans can slow progress towards financial goals. Every dollar spent repaying their debt is less money going to vacations, retirement, home buying, or starting a family.

And if you live in a community property state — Arizona, California, Idaho, Louisiana, Nevada, New Mexico, Texas, Washington, or Wisconsin — you could become responsible for your spouse’s debt if they borrow a new loan or refinance existing student loan debt. This is why it makes sense to get a prenuptial agreement to stipulate who will be responsible for debts incurred during the marriage should you later divorce. Although a prenup may blunt the romance, it can protect you and your spouse from personal finance ruin.

Step 3 – Create a plan to pay off the loans. I typically advise borrowers to tackle their private student loans first rather than starting with the loan that has the highest interest rate. Private loans usually have less flexible repayment options and higher interest rates than federal student loans. Depending on the amount of your partner’s debt, those lack of repayment options can make it difficult to fall below the debt-to-income ratio guidelines for a home loan. You can click here to learn more about FHA Student Loan Guidelines.

Learn More: How to Payoff Student Loan Debt

Step 4 – Explore refinancing options. If your spouse has a good credit score and enough income to cover living expenses and their credit card debt, explore student loan refinancing. They may qualify for a lower interest rate that makes paying off student loans faster and cheaper. You can use Credible.com to explore the best student loan refinance rates with multiple lenders at once.

Two things to note about refinancing. First, refinancing federal loans with a private lender causes your spouse to lose federal benefits like income-based repayment and loan forgiveness programs.

Second, if your future spouse needs you to cosign the loan so they can refinance, make sure you understand your rights as a co-signer and the impact it can have on your credit. Cosigning makes you responsible for your partner’s student loan debt — even if you later divorce. Plus, any payments they miss will show as negative marks on your credit report, lowering your credit score in the process.

Do your partner's student loans affect your credit?

Your partner’s student loans won’t affect your credit score. When you get married, you’ll both keep separate credit reports. If they miss payment and default on their loans, your credit history won’t be affected. However, if you cosign their loans or open joint accounts, those debts will be listed on both of your reports. If a payment is missed, it will damage both of your scores.

Learn More: How Student Loans Affect Credit Scores

Thinking of not getting married because of student loans? Let's talk.

Talking with your partner about marriage and how you’ll handle student loan debt can be challenging — especially if you don’t understand all of your options.

That’s why I’m here. I help married couples develop a strategy that lets them tackle their student loan debt and achieve their financial goals. Schedule a free 10-minute call with me today. We’ll go over all of your options to prevent or end your student loan wage garnishment.

Also, sign up for my newsletter. It’s full of information to help any student loan borrower out there. Talk soon!

UP NEXT: Buying a House With Student Loan Debt

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