Money BasicsLife Stages

How do I deal with personal debt when I just got married?

If you just got married, do you openly talk about money, especially one of the less discussed topics of personal debt? If you are, consider these tips:

  • Be honest and admit you’re in debt.
  • Be upfront with your debt.
  • Plan with your partner.
  • Follow through with the plan.

Marriage is a time of happiness for you and your spouse. It is built on the foundation of love and trust, until undisclosed debt rears its ugly head.

Anything related to finances can be a tricky topic to discuss with your partner, before or after you tie the knot. Debts in particular hold a very sensitive place in all money matters, as both have to deal with either helping out to pay a spouse’s debt or just letting the partner go about it alone. Surely, it has a tremendous impact on your relationship.

Legally, if you are in debt, your spouse is not obligated to share the burden. Section 4, Article 121 of the Family Code of the Philippines (Executive Order 209) states, “payment of personal debts contracted by the husband or the wife before or during the marriage shall not be charged to the conjugal properties partnership except insofar as they redounded to the benefit of the family.”

This means that debts you’ve contracted before or even during the marriage will not be considered conjugal and your partner is not obligated to pay. The only exception is that if these debts have been used specifically to benefit the family.

While the law states this clearly, it could also be a personal and moral concern for the partner to be not involved in settling debts. Unless you are unable to resolve the debts on your own, you may need to ask your partner for help.

There is nothing easy when discussing money with your spouse, but here are simple tips on how to begin the conversation:

  • Be honest and admit you’re in debt. Tell your spouse about your situation the soonest so you can both find solutions.
  • Show your numbers. Whatever your debt level is, share it with your spouse. Nothing strengthens a relationship like being honest and upfront about your debt.
  • Plan ahead. Whether you are financially capable to manage it on your own, or you want your spouse to help out, you need to come up with a plan to pay your debts as a couple.
  • Follow through with the plan. Your promises are as good as your actions. You must ensure that you’ll finish off your debts by establishing long-term plans to eliminate and minimize your debts.

It is always prudent to discuss your financial situation with your future spouse before getting married. But you can always take the initiative and solve the problem to ensure your union’s long-term security.

See this related article: 5 rules on managing debts wisely

This article is part of a collection of stories and practical financial tips that are published with the goal to help people learn from the experiences of others, and to pick out lessons on personal finance and sound money habits beyond the pandemic.