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military coupleThere is no question that the VA loan program is an excellent benefit to veterans and service members looking to buy a home or refinance their existing one. It enables them to buy a home with no down payment, much lower interest rates and no mortgage insurance.

However, many service members have questions about including their civilian spouses in the process of getting their VA loan. Here are the top three things that all spouses – and service members – should know about VA loan benefits.

Qualifying Income
More often than not, you’ll find that with most military couples, one partner is a service member while the other is a civilian. Sometimes, these couples assume that the civilian’s income or financial standing could be a problem or not count toward qualifying for a VA loan. That couldn’t be further from the truth. In fact, the civilian spouse’s income could actually help! If the civilian’s income is substantial, it could potentially help the service member qualify for a larger loan.

The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) allows spouses to cosign for loans. In this case, you could use the civilian spouse’s income with the military spouse’s eligibility for the VA loan. However, it’s important to remember that the VA loan is no different from any other loan when it comes to your debt-to-income ratio and credit history. If your civilian spouse makes more but has a poor credit rating, that could hurt your chances of qualifying for a loan, regardless of your military standing.

Surviving Spouse Eligibility

Prior to the signing of the Honoring America’s Veterans and Caring for Camp Lejeune Families Act in 2012, only spouses of those who had died of military-related causes were allowed to apply for VA loan benefits. Today, those benefits have been extended for surviving spouses.

These kinds of surviving spouses can apply for a VA loan:

  • A non-remarried surviving spouse of a veteran or service member who died in service or from a service-related disability
  • A spouse of a service member who was missing in action or a prisoner of war for last least 90 days
  • A surviving spouse of a veteran who was rated totally disabled and was eligible for disability compensation at the time of death from any cause

Divorce

This is possibly the most complex issue when it comes to civilian spouses and VA loans. If you are an ex-spouse of a service member, you are not eligible for a new VA loan in the same way a surviving spouse would be. That’s pretty straightforward.

It can get complicated when divorce is involved after you have a VA loan together. The VA has very strict occupancy requirements on who can and cannot live in a home purchased using a VA loan. However, if the civilian spouse is a cosigner, they are eligible to remain in the home without the service member living there. The issue arises when it comes to entitlement. The service member cannot restore their entitlement unless their ex-spouse refinances and/or pays off the VA loan in full.

It’s important to keep in mind, whether you’re a current spouse, surviving spouse or ex-spouse, that every situation is different and complex. Be sure to talk to a Home Loan Expert who specializes in VA loans so they can walk you through your unique situation.

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This Post Has 136 Comments

  1. My late husband purchased our home with a VA loan before we were married (engaged at the time, married a few months later in 2015) and he recently passed away. My husband was concerned about me losing the house if he passed so we had called the VA last year and was told I could continue to live in the house and pay the mortgage. They did suggest a quick claim deed, which didn’t matter to them but protects me if the Bank tries to call the loan. After trying to work with a Real Estate Lawyer it didn’t get done and he became sick so it fell by the side. My credit is still not great and I haven’t any money for a closing anyway. The VA will let me continue to live in and pay the mortgage but can I get my name on the deed? I live in an association park and can not vote or be on the Board unless I’m on the deed. Thank you

    1. Hi Jan:

      The deed should have nothing to do with the mortgage. You’ll be able to continue living in the house and you should be able to get a quitclaim deed done assuming your husband had some documentation saying the house went to you.

      Thanks,
      Kevin

  2. Hi,

    I got divorced from a veteran in 2015. I moved out the house, I was a co-signer and we used VA. In the divorce decree he was awarded the property. I just completed a Quit Claim Deed and now am seeking to come off the loan. Is a VA release of liability the way to go? He is already re-married with a child, and I am looking to purchase a house for myself and I need my debt to income ratio to come down.

    Thanks!

    1. Hi Ash:

      I’m going to recommend you talk to one of our Home Loan Experts. They know more about VA policy than I do. They should be able to tell you whether that form will work or if he actually has to refinance you off the loan. You can get in touch with them by calling (888) 728-4702.

      Thanks,
      Kevin Graham

  3. We tried to get a va loan through our credit union. My husbands score is above 620 and he has a 5k collection on his credit from 4 years ago. They told us that we need to have 17k in our savings account! Is that common? Do we need to pay the collection off first?

    1. Hi Tracy:

      You may have to pass the collection, but I’m going to recommend you talk to one of our Home Loan Experts to look into your situation and see if there’s anything that can be done. You can call 888-728-4702. They’ll be happy to talk to you.

      Thanks,
      Kevin Graham

  4. My husband is a veteran. Last year we started looking for a home and in the mortgage process decided it would be easier to get the loan in his name as I had a judgment to clear up and only add my name to the deed. Unfortunately, he went behind my back and purchased a home and left, using the VA loan. I am almost in the clear with my credit, and now I’m trying to figure out how to purchase a home for me and our children, I am currently renting off lease (we didn’t renew because we were looking to purchase), and have to find somewhere to go in the next couple of months. Will I be able to use and VA loans? We are still married, not legally separated, no divorce proceedings have started, and he is still getting VA benefits for me and the children, he is a disabled vet.

    1. Hi Nina:

      Unfortunately, the veteran and the family can only use the VA loan on one house at the time. The entitlement can’t be reused until he sells the house. One of our Home Loan Experts may be able to go over other options with you if you fill out this form or call (888) 728-4702.

  5. Currently separated from my wife. In MD you have to be separated for 1 yr no co-habitation to be eligible to divorce. What are my options? She cannot afford the house without me, and cannot refinance. Also if I do leave as she is asking, does my tax exemption leave with me? Am,I entitled to make her leave since its a VA loan, and she cannot afford the house on her own? What can I do to keep my home?

    1. Hi Johnathan:

      I can’t answer the tax question. For that, you really need an accountant. As to who gets the house, that has to be worked out in the divorce agreement. However, if she can’t afford the home without you, she’ll end up losing it.

      Thanks,
      Kevin Graham

  6. Question on Taxes..

    My previous home was purchased through the use of my VA Home Loan.. i got divorced but i stayed in the house through Jan. of 2016.. My x’s name was still on the loan with me.. She wants to claim that one month, Jan of 2016, on her taxes..

    Since this was a VA loan and I am the Vet, can she legally claim the taxes on that Home with out me?

    1. Hi Chris:

      If you were both on the loan at the time, the IRS doesn’t care who claims the deduction and it’s up to the two of you to talk about that. Legally, she could.

      Thanks,
      Kevin Graham

  7. So I just retired with 22 years of active duty service. I purchased a home with my VA loan back in 2011, I only lived in the home for three months, then my ex wife decided that I needed to find another place to live. She won the house in the divorce which was finalized in OCT 2013, I have given her plenty of time to refinance and even got her in touch with a real estate agent to do so. She refused to talk to him, with that mortgage which is on my credit my debt to income ratio is too high. Where do I go from here? Thanks for any help in this matter.

    1. Hi Richard:

      She would have to refinance in order to get off the loan. Typically, you would give her a certain amount of time in the divorce decree. It doesn’t sound like that’s what happened here. Unfortunately, you may be stuck for a while now. Interest rates are going up enough that she won’t find it in her interest to refinance. You could try to take her back to court but if there was never a set time limit, you may be stuck. A real estate agent wouldn’t be able to help her refinance at all either. They just find houses. I do wish you good luck.

      Thanks,
      Kevin Graham

  8. My (Viet Nam era vet) husband and I got a VA loan for our home 3 years ago. We are working on wills and trying to figure out beneficiaries in case of our death. I read that children cannot assume the loan. It appears that I also cannot assume the loan in the potential loss of my husband and I would need to refinance it into an IRRRL streamline loan, whatever that means. Would I be required to change the loan if my husband died, or couldn’t I just keep paying on the same VA mortgage month after month? Please clear this up for us so we can figure out the most appropriate child of ours to inherit our home as well as what would happen to myself in the case that my husband died. It seems that the house would need to be sold if my husband died, even if I’m still living here with my children, due to the fact that the mortgage would have to change and I wouldn’t qualify for a new mortgage by my lack of income. In the event of my husband’s death, we had anticipated that the kids and I could pitch in together to pay the mortgage, but change our lifestyle of highschool and college kids and myself the homemaker, and find new jobs. But new jobs being found would not qualify us to get a new mortgage, right? We do not live in a community property state. Thank you.

    1. So it’s not true that your children couldn’t assume the loan. Your husband would lose his entitlement, but it wouldn’t matter if he has passed. The same goes for you. You could assume the loan without having to credit qualify and just keep making the payments after telling the mortgage company. Hope this helps!

  9. My spouse and I are getting a divorce, and she is still living in the house that I have my VA loan on with our children. She thinks that she can stay in the home indefinitely even if I am not living there, and it is no longer my primary residence. Do I have to let her stay even if she can’t afford to maintain the house, or does she have to refinance to get me off of the loan if I want her to?

    1. Hi Fred:

      I’m sorry to hear about the divorce. In terms of working out the refinance process, that’s typically something that’s decided in the divorce agreement. You can say she has X amount of time to refinance the loan if she gets the house.

      Thanks,
      Kevin Graham

  10. My wife and I are unfortunately going through a divorce, This was her decision as I am still wanting to work on our relationship. We recently purchased a house and she had asked me to move out, I accepted because I could not afford the mortgage myself . I have given her everything so far but told her that The VA loan will stay with me. She said the courts would just sign the house over to her and take me off the loan. I told her that would not happen and that she either needs to refinance it on her own or we need to sell it. She makes 4 times what my income is and I am not even going to ask for alimony. Does she have a leg to stand on or would she need my approval to get the loan because I am not willing to give it to her.

    1. Hi Ryan:

      I’m going to start by saying I’m not a divorce lawyer and I assume you’re talking to one. That said, as far as I know, it doesn’t really work that way. She has to refinance you off the loan.

      Thanks,
      Kevin Graham

  11. My husband was I the army. After he came home he abandoned me and our 3 children. We are still married, it’s been 3.5 years. Is there a chance I am eligible for a VA loan?

    1. Hi Lisa:

      Sorry to hear about your situation with your husband. Unfortunately, the VA loan eligibility is tied to him, so he would have to be on any loan you could get through the VA. It doesn’t sound like that’s likely to happen. I’m very sorry.

      Thanks,
      Kevin Graham

  12. Situation Question:
    A “non” disabled, retired veteran is in the midst of repaying a VA loan. The veteran suddenly becomes permanently disabled or has passed away. The veteran no longer has the ability to repay the loan in these situations. The only assets available are a 401k and term life insurance policy that are just enough to cover the VA home loan itself. However, this leaves no income to sustain the surviving spouse for any reasonable length of time. The surviving spouse is employed but her income is not enough to sustain a household if a mortgage or rent are factored in. In this situation, does the VA forgive the loan like California’s veteran mortgage loan agency CalVet or is the surviving spouse still held accountable for the loan? If so, what survivor mortgage insurance is recommended to pay off the house as to not interfere with the existing assets? Thanks.

    1. In this situation, the spouse would still be responsible for the mortgage. They could take a look at doing a loan modification by talking to the loan servicer. There are specialized life insurance policies that specifically pay off the mortgage. I wouldn’t recommend any specific one. I suppose it would be whichever you can get the best deal on.

  13. My husband died in 2014. We have a VA loan. He was 100 % disabled Well over 10 years. non service related, but allowing me to meet the disabled spouse requirements listed above with receiving 100% disability. I want to know if I can sell this house for full payoff and buy another house with the same VA benefits. I have not re-married and have a good credit score with no late or missed payments at all. Thank you in advance.

    1. Hi Jennifer:

      I’m sorry to hear about your husband’s passing. This question is a little complicated and the VA guidelines don’t seem overly clear on a couple points surrounding your question, but I don’t deal with VA loans every day. I’m going to recommend you talk to one of our Home Loan Experts. We have people that specialize in VA loans who can probably help answer your question. Please feel free to give us a call at (888) 728-4702. They’ll be able to get you the right info.

      Thanks,
      Kevin Graham

  14. I got divorced three years ago and my ex was the one in the service and when we bought our home we acquired a VA loan. I got the house in the divorce and my ex took his name of the deed. Ever since then I have been struggling financially to pay the mortgage and for the last year and a half I have been trying to either refinance or do loan modifications and I either get denied on the modifications or get told I am not able to refinance as this is a VA loan and I am not the veteran and I’m about to loose my house. I did read on another question you answered that they should be able to refi my loan but I keep getting told that’s not possible. I really need help any suggestions??
    Jen

    1. Hi Jen:

      You do have to tell the mortgage company when you assume the loan. They need to know that, but you should have been able to do a simple assumption and not even credit qualify because of the divorce. The only thing that happens with VA loan assumptions is that the veteran loses the ability to use a VA loan again. That said, every mortgage company has a policy that’s a little different regarding loan assumptions. I’m going to recommend you talk to one of our Home Loan Experts to try to get some advice in this matter. They can go over your situation. Feel free to either chat with them or call (888) 728-4702.

      Thanks,
      Kevin Graham

  15. My father and I are interested in purchasing a large family home that will house multiple generations. He is a veteran. Will I be allowed on the loan if we chose the VA route?
    Thanks

    1. Hi Brandi:

      Since you are his daughter, this is considered a VA joint loan. Unfortunately, we only do VA joint loans in specific refinancing situations. I’m sorry and I wish you luck.

      Thanks,
      Kevin Graham

  16. Hi my husband is active duty and I am a stay at home mom (no income) we both have good credit but each have about $5,000 that we have put on individual credit cards due to our recent move and his deployment. If I assume his credit card debt, and am not a part of the loan do they look at my financial standing/debt at all? Thank you.

  17. I am the widow of a deceased veteran. I remarried and now divorced. Am I eligible for a VA loan using my deceased husband’s eligibility?

    Thank you

    1. Hi Sharon:

      I would take the policy to mean you can’t remarry before you get the loan. However, I would talk to one of our Home Loan Experts. We have people that are very familiar with the program and can let you know exactly how the guidelines work. If the VA won’t work for you, we can help you take a look at other options as well. To get started, you can fill out this form or call 888-728-4702.

      Thanks,
      Kevin Graham

  18. My husband is a vet. We purchased a house with a VA loan Jan. 2016. We are talking about a divorce. We are both on the title. He cannot afford to keep the house & make the payments. I can afford to keep the house & make the payments. What would I need to do to assume the loan & release him from being on it? We are both retired. Please let me know. Thanks

    Darla

    1. Hi Darla:

      I’m sorry to hear you’re going through this. In terms of the actual loan assumption process, you would need to talk to the lender and credit qualify in order to prove you have the ability to continue making the payments. Every lender’s policy regarding assumption is a little bit different, so be sure to follow their advice. Once you assume the loan, he’s released from the payments. It’s important to note that by letting you assume the loan as a civilian, your husband would lose the ability to purchase a new house with a VA loan in the future. He may not care, but it’s something to take into consideration. Hope this helps!

      Thanks,
      Kevin Graham

  19. I was married a to military guy. Im a civilian. We had a divorce and i assumed our house ( VA loan) from his name to my name.
    My question is can i refinance the house with the VA loan or do i have to get a different kind of loan to refinance since im not in military?

    1. The VA entitlement stays with the property. As your ex-husband gave up his VA entitlement when you assumed the mortgage, the entitlement is essentially yours. You should be able to refinance again under a VA loan if you choose.

      Thanks,
      Kevin Graham

  20. I went through a divorce in 2012 and we did a DIY divorce being everything was completely mutual. In the filing we had put in that he would have full liability and full assest of the house. The house has had renters living in it since 2009. However, last year some really bad things came out and legal action was taken against him with a protection order put in place. Now, I’m seeing the error of my ways from the begining and just want to get out from under the mortgage all together. No QCD was done. I contacted Wells Fargo and the lady told me HE had to request a release of liability form from the VA and then submit it to the VA. After that was done she said to just send it to them and they would proceed with taking care of everything. Obviously I can’t contact him and neither of us live in the house. What, if anything, can I do now?

    1. Hi Rebecca:

      It does sound like a complicated situation. My best suggestion would be for you to talk to one of our Home Loan Experts. They may be able to help you go over your situation and offer advice on any options you may have. You can get in touch with one of our bankers via chat at this link or call 888-728-4702.

      Thanks,
      Kevin Graham

  21. I have a very poor credit rating and my wife has great credit. What are my options on getting a a house using the va loan

    1. Hi Curtis:

      If you’re the veteran, you have to be on the loan in order to get it done, however we require at least a 620 credit score in order to qualify. My best advice is to talk to one of our Home Loan Experts by filling out this form or calling 888-728-4702. They can go over strategies unique to your situation. In the meantime, here’s a blog post with some tips on how to build up your score. Best of luck!

      Thanks,
      Kevin Graham

  22. My question is that I just purchased a home with my VA loan 3 months ago. Looking at a possible divorce. My wife is on the lease, but not the loan itself. She had no part in the loan process what-so-ever. Do I get to keep the house and let her leave? She seems to think she doesn’t have to go anywhere.

    1. Hi Rick:

      I’m not sure what you mean by lease since you’re not renting. If she is on the title, the house would have to be included in the divorce negotiations. Hope this helps!

      Thanks,
      Kevin Graham

  23. My husband is a vet. I purchased our home before we married ten years ago. The mortgage is in my name, as is the second, and the property is titled in the name of my living trust. My husband would be a beneficiary of the trust should I predecease him, but I am the trustee. We are in California. Is there a way to refinance with a VA loan? Thanks.

    1. Hi Lorna:

      I’m going to suggest you talk to one of our licensed mortgage bankers who can help you look into your options. If you fill out this form, someone licensed in California and familiar with VA loans will be happy to contact you.

      Thanks,
      Kevin Graham

  24. I’m medically retired from the U.S Army Infantry because of brain cancer and TBI. In 2008 before deploying to Iraq again I got married and was talked into buying a house in Oklahoma while stationed in Hawaii (young and stupid) 9 months into that last deployment I was medevac out with a tumor. I was told I was terminally ill and while deployed me and my ex agreed to divorce because she was cleaning me out financially. I fought with her for four years to divorce because she did not want to lose the house and have me keep paying her monthly, as well as my medical. I was in Texas at the time for cancer treatment and was being told I was terminal and she delayed things thinking I would expire before it was done with. I gave her the house and she assumed the debt in the divorce but now I can’t get her to refinance and it’s been 7 years since I’ve step foot in the place or Oklahoma. To wrap up the story sorry for the length but I cannot buy a house because she want refinance even though that’s what was agreed on.

    1. Hi Jon:

      First, I want to say congratulations on your better health. Thank you for your service!

      I would talk to a lawyer because if you have something in writing saying she’s supposed to sell the house so you can work on getting your VA entitlement restored, you may be able to legally compel her to sell.

      Short of that, you may have to go to Plan B. We do offer a variety of low down payment options. In any case, I wouldn’t hesitate to talk to a banker to go over any avenues you might have. If you fill out this form, we can go ahead and put you in contact with someone that can go over your situation in detail.

      Thanks,
      Kevin Graham

  25. Would like to know how to get started refinance a home as a spouse of a disabled vet. He died as a result of his disability.

    1. Hi Shirley:

      I’m very sorry to hear about your loss. This country owes your husband a debt of gratitude for his service I can have someone reach out to you and help you look into your options.

      Thanks,
      Kevin Graham

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