Married couples can either apply for credit individually or jointly. One of the benefits of applying for joint credit is that both you and your spouse’s income, expenses, and financial stability are considered when a creditor evaluates your overall financial picture. However, applying for separate credit has its advantages. If you and your spouse ever run into financial problems (e.g., illness or job layoff), separate credit allows one spouse to risk damaging his or her credit history while preserving the other spouse’s good credit. In addition, separate credit can also protect you and your spouse from each other. If you and your spouse cosign a loan or apply for a credit card, you are both responsible for 100 percent repayment of the debt. In other words, if your spouse does not pay his or her share, you can get stuck with paying the whole amount. On the other hand, if your spouse takes out a loan or applies for a credit card on his or her own, generally your spouse is solely responsible for the debt.
While the general rule is that spouses are not responsible for each other’s debts, there are exceptions. Many states will hold both spouses responsible for a debt incurred by one spouse if the debt constituted a family expense (e.g., child care or groceries). In addition, in some community property states, both spouses may be responsible for one spouse’s debts, since both spouses have equal rights to each other’s incomes. You may want to discuss your state’s laws with an attorney if you live in a community property state.