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Getting married is an exciting life event that also comes with changes to your finances, including to your student loans. For example, marriage can affect what student loan repayment plans you qualify for and your monthly payment. Before you get married, it’s important to know what changes to prepare for so you’re not blindsided.
Legal responsibility for the loans
Student loans taken out before marriage are generally considered your debt — your partner isn’t legally responsible for repaying the loan if you can’t make payments. The only exception is if they co-signed the loan before marriage.
Payment plan changes
Getting married can impact your federal income-driven repayment (IDR) plan if you file your taxes jointly with your spouse. Each IDR plan uses your income to determine your monthly payment; if you and your spouse both work and your income rises, your monthly IDR payments may also increase.
There is a way to get around this with most plans; if you choose to file separately, you may have only your income considered for your plan. The only exception to this used to be the Revised Pay As You Earn (REPAYE). In the past, even if you filed separately from your spouse, their income was still considered.
Under the new Saving On a Valuable Education (SAVE) Plan — which replaces the REPAYE plan — if you file separately, your spouse’s income doesn’t count when calculating your monthly payment.
Tax breaks and adjustments
When you get married, your student loan interest deduction eligibility could change. This deduction allows you to deduct up to $2,500 in interest paid on a student loan during the tax year — as long as you fall below the modified adjusted gross income (MAGI) limit.
When you get married and file a joint tax return, the MAGI limit for the student loan interest deduction increases. The deduction is phased out for MAGIs between $145,000 and $175,000, and MAGIs above $175,000 are not eligible.
Again, whether this will affect you depends on your spouse’s income. A high household income after marriage may mean you’re no longer eligible for the deduction, but marrying someone with a low annual income could mean the opposite.
Your spouse’s student loan debt won’t affect your credit score unless you co-signed the loan for them. If the co-signed loan is repaid on time, it can add positive payment history to your credit reports, possibly boosting your score. On the flip side, if your spouse defaults on the loan, it can cause major damage to you and your spouse’s credit.
If your marital status changes, so will your federal financial aid award potential. When you get married, you’re considered an independent student, even if you rely on your parents monetarily and live with them. If you’re an independent student, the FAFSA no longer considers your parents’ financial information when determining your financial need; instead, it uses your financial information and your spouse’s.
This could have either a positive or a negative effect on your financial aid. If your spouse’s income is higher than your parents’, your financial need could go down, causing you to lose some financial aid. Conversely, if you and your spouse earn much less than your parents, you could receive more financial aid.
Refinancing with your spouse
Some lenders allow you to refinance your student loans with your spouse. This involves taking out a new loan with a private lender to pay off your existing one. However, if you refinance a federal student loan, you’ll lose access to federal benefits like income-driven repayment plans and federal forbearance.
The bottom line
Getting married can impact your student loan repayment plan, financial aid potential and more, especially if you choose to file your taxes jointly. Before getting married, discuss finances and any potential impacts of a new marital status with your partner. Remember, student loans are only one part of your finances; before deciding on a tax filing strategy, it may be smart to speak with a licensed financial advisor and talk through different scenarios.
Frequently asked questions
Generally speaking, you’re not responsible for your spouse’s student loans if they took them out before marrying you. However, you may be responsible for student loans taken out during the marriage, even if you didn’t co-sign for them.
There are some exceptions to this, though. For example, you could have a prenuptial agreement stating that a debt you apply for on your own is a separate debt.
The answer depends on when you or your spouse took out the student loan and where you live. If the debt was taken out before marriage and your partner didn’t co-sign, you’re still responsible for repaying the debt on your own.
However, if either one of you took out student loans during marriage and you get divorced in a community property state, your partner may be responsible for 50 percent of your student loan balance. The level of responsibility each person has, if any, is determined by the courts in equitable distribution states.
Once you get married, you have to report your spouse’s income on your loan application, and this can affect what type of federal student loans you’re eligible to take out — Direct Subsidized or Unsubsidized. Your eligibility for a private student loan isn’t affected.
However, If they agree to allow you to add them as a co-signer on a private loan, it could help boost your approval chances and help you secure a lower rate.