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If a wife pays a husband debt is it OK? Risks

Can A Wife Pay A Husband's Debt

For free and impartial money advice and guidance, visit MoneyHelper, to help you make the most of your money.

Debts and all things surrounding them can be more than confusing at the best of times, but when there are two of you agreeing to sort out payments on a financial agreement, things can get tricky. 

There are all sorts of red tape surrounding couples’ debt and it can be a tricky topic to get to the bottom of. We go through everything you need to know about what happens if a wife pays her husband’s debt, and the consequences that might emerge because of this. 

Credit File

There is a common belief that when you get married, your credit file or credit score will end up being linked to your spouse in a joint credit file. This is not the case however. 

The only time you will have a linked account is when you open or agree to a joint credit agreement, meaning that marriage won’t affect your credit file. When it comes to a wife settling a husband’s debt, she isn’t necessarily obliged to do it unless she has a joint account.

Joint debts

So marriage won’t link your credit files. But joint credit applications will make you both liable. While having a joint account can be great for couples with a solid financial history, if either one of you has a background of defaults, it can affect the others credit file.  

Creditors may look up either one of you to find out about your previous credit history. This could impact any future credit applications you may wish to make. If either one of you has any financial skeletons in the closet, it could be best to keep your finances separate and work on rebuilding the credit file together.

In these instances, the consequence of the wife paying off the husband’s debt could be an accepted joint credit agreement. 

Secret financial lives

The effects that your own personal financial history has on your partner are fairly damaging. However, it’s estimated that around 80% of people wouldn’t tell their partners about their debts because they were worried about how they might react.

You may be embarrassed by your finances, but if you are keeping debts a secret and these same debts could threaten the stability of the whole household, then you will have a serious problem on your hands. It could also put a strain on your relationship, so it’s really important to be open and honest about your finances.

Liability for a partner’s debts

Sometimes you may choose to help with your partners debts, for instance if a wife pays a husband’s debt. One thing that frightens a lot of people is whether they end up becoming personally liable for their partners debts. 

You can only be held responsible for the debts that are either in your name, or the ones that you hold jointly with your partner. With joint accounts, if your partner isn’t forthcoming with the payments, the creditor could demand that you pay the full amount, which might end up being a fair bit. 

Wife pays a husband’s debt – is it OK?

There are many reasons as to why you might want a completely clean financial slate between you and your partner. It is absolutely OK for a wife to pay her husband’s debt – at the end of the day, the creditor will simply want to recoup his losses and get you back up to speed. 

Things can get trickier if the debts themselves are untenable and it isn’t possible for the wife to pay the husbands debt. In these instances, it may be better for one of you to opt for a Debt Management Plan where you slowly whittle away the debt piece by piece. 

If things are really serious, you may have to consider bankruptcy or insolvency. This works best if the person in the couple with the most debts has the lower income, or if you have an equal amount of debt and roughly equal income.

Consequences of a wife paying her husband’s debts

You may be wondering the consequences of a wife paying a husband’s debts. Well, there aren’t really any consequences. If a wife pays a husband’s debt, it will actually help both of them financially. However, you may be wondering why you should pay a husband’s debts – after all, they’re nothing to do with you.

Unfortunately, as we mentioned earlier in the article, if both of you have marks on your credit file, you won’t be able to get very far with regards to opening a joint account or anything like that. So paying off the debt will help with this. You may have even benefitted from some of the things the husband got into debt for as well.

Personal preferences

At the end of the day, it comes down to the individual. The consequences of a wife paying a husband’s debt are all personal, and there is a lot of difference between helping your partner sort out old debts so you can start a life together and funding his on-going over-spending habit.

You may want to find some kind of middle ground between ignoring your partner’s debts and helping to settle them. One way you could get some sort of accord between you both is to agree to cut back on expenses and use half the savings from this to pay off your husband’s debt, and the other half you could put into your ISA allowance. 

Final thoughts

Discussing debts with your partner can be almost as difficult as admitting to the debt in the first instance. Knowing that if a wife pays husband’s debt is OK and there aren’t any serious consequences could a load off your mind though. As we mentioned in this article, it all boils down to personal preferences. 

While there aren’t any last financial consequences to a wife paying for a husband’s debt, and in fact they’ll both be better off and in the clear, it could lead to some resentment between the two people.


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