NEW YORK (MainStreet) —A couple of years ago, Ryan Miller, a 46-year old medical device salesman, sought the advice of Vickie Adams, a certified financial planner in San Pedro, Calif., before he filed for divorce.
He had married Susan, a 37-year old who was passionate about designer shoes and purses and brought $35,000 worth of credit card debt to the marriage with the promise that she was going to curtail her spending and pay the card down bit by bit. Five years into the marriage, the Greater Los Angeles area couple needed their combined income to qualify for a mortgage.
Susan needed to improve her credit score by reducing her debt, because she was barely able to keep up with the monthly interest payments. Ryan paid off her American Express card, which was supposed to be “the payment to end all payments,” but the couple continued to bicker over money and how it was being spent.
Instead of appreciating being debt free, Susan took that as a cue to renew her previous prolific shopping habit. Since Ryan was able to “track” the chunk of funds he used to specifically pay pre-marital debt, he was awarded his share of the reimbursement.
“In some states, a spouse may be entitled to reimbursement, so keep records,” Adams said. “When you marry someone, you marry their credit score, too. If they have poor credit, be careful to keep separate credit cards in your own name that so your credit will not be impacted.”
Paying off your spouse’s debt, like in the case of Ryan and Susan Miller, could wind up spelling trouble for both of you and even lower both of your credit scores in the process.