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In Ontario, each spouse has the ability to own property and carry debts in his or her own name. This means that, when you marry someone who has pre-existing debts such as student loans, you do not become automatically responsible for paying their debts. The debt belongs only to your spouse.

However, you should consider the impact of your spouse’s student loans or other debts on other aspects of your joint financial lives. If they are carrying too much debt, a bank or other financing company may not be comfortable issuing a mortgage or other loan to you jointly. You may end up having to assume debts in your name alone because your spouse has problems with his or her credit.

An important consideration when entering into a marriage is your future spouse’s financial circumstances. Although it may not feel romantic, full financial disclosure is essential when planning your joint lives together. If you and your spouse choose to enter into a marriage contract, full financial disclosure is also critical.

When you get married, you may not want to imagine separation anywhere on the horizon, but date of marriage debts are also an important consideration should you and your spouse separate at some time in the future. My colleague Hillary Houston blogged recently about property rights following the end of a marriage. Properly accounting for date of marriage debts is critical when calculating net family property. If your spouse came into marriage with debt, it will reduce his or her date of marriage deduction, and possibly increase their net family property. Net family property measures the forward progress during a marriage, which includes paying off debts. These calculations can be complicated, and it is important to have a full accounting of the assets and liabilities that you and your spouse had on both the date of marriage and the date of separation, and proof of each of them. If you have records of your financial position and your spouse’s at the date of marriage, it will make your lawyer’s job much quicker and easier when calculating net family property upon separation.