Not to mention it pretty much kills romance.
But there is a kernel of wisdom there that couples in California need to heed.
A couple’s community property is liable not only for the debts that either spouse incurs during the marriage, it is liable for the debts that either spouse incurred before the marriage.
Your accumulations during marriage could be levied by a creditor with a judgment to satisfy your spouse’s debts that arose before the two of you even met.
California does have an exception to that rule that protects the wages of one spouse earned during marriage from the other spouse’s premarital debts. It requires that the non liable spouse put those wages into a bank account to which the indebted spouse has no access.
Returning to credit scores as a dating criteria, maybe it isn’t so outlandish. That is, assuming you think the credit score is meaningful.
Many of my bankruptcy clients, who are drowning in debt they can never pay off, tell me that they have a 800+ credit score. The credit score cannot be a reliable measure of much of anything, if that’s so.
Remember that credit scores are based on credit reports, which are uniformly significantly inaccurate. Here in Silicon Valley, we love to chant, garbage in, garbage out.
Community property is the default
So if the love of your life brings a bunch of debt to the relationship, all is not lost.
Bankruptcy will, of course, discharge most debt.
But if that’s not feasible or timely, remember that you don’t have to hold your marital assets as community property.
Community property is the default. What you earn and acquire together doesn’t have to be community property.
Spouses can agree that they won’t have community property. The agreement can craft any kind of characterization of assets that the parties desire.
There are rules about pre nuptial agreements, to guard against overreaching by either spouse. If you are relying on an agreement to protect you from a significant debt of your spouse, it’s worth it to get legal help. From a lawyer, not a website, or a paralegal or a form book.
If your financial stability in the future depends on your marital property arrangement, do it right.
Image courtesy of Flickr and Zoetnet.