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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 132 Comments

  1. I have heard but cant find documentation anywhere on the VA.gov site that the spouse of the veteran MUST live in the same house if both names are on the VA loan. I’m the veteran and I will occupy the house 100% of the time but my wife’s job is in a temporary location for the next 3 years. She will come home 3 days out of the week. We are buying a house where we want to retire after the 3 years. I was told by the lender she will have to live in the house 100% of the time if her income is to be considered. IF this is true the VA needs to clearly state this in the requirements.

    1. Hi James:

      Many of the special occupancy requirements for VA loans are related to you as the veteran. However I’ll recommend that you speak with one of our Home Loan Experts to get the best information and as to whether your eligibility is affected by your wife’s occupancy at all. You can get in touch with us at (888) 980-6716. Good luck!

  2. Hello
    Me and my husband are planning on purchases a home soon. We have been working on our credit and my scores are a lot higher than his. Even though we are both veterans for some reason I am not able to get a VA loan because I was told due to the amount of time I served. My question is because I have the better scores are we able to use his VA loan and use my scores for purchasing a home.

    1. Hi Kendra:

      Since your husband qualifies for the entitlement, he would have to be on the loan. He would have to have a minimum median credit score of 620. With that being said, we can go over a game plan for the two of you to help get his credit up potentially. I’m going to recommend you speak with one of our Home Loan Experts at (888) 980-6716. Thanks!

  3. Hello,

    I am a veteran, and I got married 8 years ago. My ex-wife and I bought a house together with my VA loan. We divorced but she kept the house. My name is still on the deed. I am wanting to purchase a new home but I can’t unless she pays off the loan or refinances. She is no where close to paying off the loan and she refuses to refinance. What can I do?

    1. Hi Daniel:

      You may want to talk to an attorney. I’m not sure if there’s anything you can do to compel her to refinance. This would typically be something that can be worked out in the divorce agreement. I’m not sure if something could be done in your state. It’s probably not in her interest to refinance on her own at the moment because rates are higher than they were eight years ago. I wish I could tell you something more helpful.

      Thank you very much for your service!

    1. If you’re the veteran, you shouldn’t have to. The one stipulation to this would be that your spouse would have rights to the property if it’s a community property state.

  4. We live in a community property state. My husband purchased our home with a VA loan before we were married, and he wants to refinance. Is he able to do this without pulling my credit? We keep completely separate finances and I have debt attached to my name from a previous marriage that my ex is paying off. Does this have to count against his debt-to-income ratio?

    1. Hi Amber:

      Unfortunately, since you live in a community property state, the VA requires that your debt is counted in his debt-to-income ratio. I’m sorry. That being said, one of our Home Loan Experts could help to go over your options at (888) 980-6716 to find the best possible solution for you both. I can also tell you that conventional loans don’t require a non-borrowing spouse’s credit to be pulled in this situation. Hope this helps a bit!

  5. My husband and I bought a house 20 years ago using his $1 down VA loan. In the interim I refinanced the house and the mortgage note is in my name.
    Would he be eligible to reuse the VA benefit to buy another home? He is wanting to move our family out of the area and sell our home. So we were wondering about this.

    1. Hi Arlene:

      If you refinanced out of a VA loan, that means the previous loan was paid off in full as part of the transaction. Because of this, he can have his VA entitlement restored once in order to purchase another property. If you would like, you can get started online using Rocket Mortgage or go ahead and give us a call at (888) 980-6716 to speak to one of our Home Loan Experts. Hope this helps!

  6. Hi,
    This question is for my daughter. She is married to an Active duty AF Member. They bought a house together in Arizona using his VA. Both are on the Loan and Deed. They are divorcing and she is not after the house but wants to make sure she is removed from the loan and any liability. Certain he will not be able to secure refinancing since they needed her income to qualify for the original loan. He’s been telling her he will give her $15K in equity and take her name off the loan if she agrees. Something don’t sound right. What should she be looking out for?

    1. Hi James:

      Being that they’re both on the deed, she’s legally entitled to 50% of the house proceeds. Of course, that can be negotiated and it sounds like that’s what he’s doing. It makes sense that he would choose a fixed dollar amount because it doesn’t sound like he’s selling the house. The one thing I would be on the lookout for is to make sure it was negotiated into the divorce agreement that he has a set amount of time in which he has to refinance to get her name off the loan. You might talk to the attorney about inserting a provision in the agreement where he would have to sell the house if he can’t refinance within a certain timeframe. That way, worst-case scenario, they can both start over. Hope this helps!

  7. My husband is a service connected camp lejeune veteran. We want to get a VA loan and buy a home. Our question is can we get the insurance that will pay the loan off when he dies.

    1. Hi Kara:

      The type of insurance that you’re referring to is mortgage life insurance. It’s not something handled by the mortgage company, but rather an insurance provider. You would have to ask them this question. A Google search might give you some leads on providers and quotes.

  8. I have a mortgage in my name. I married a disabled Veteran 2.5 years ago and am wondering about refinancing. Would I qualify for a VA loan refinance as the spouse of a Veteran, even though he is not on the mortgage? If not, how should I proceed in order to qualify for a VA mortgage refinance loan? Thank you

    1. Hi Ann:

      The veteran has to be on the loan in order for you to qualify. It’s the only way to make it work. I’m sorry.

      Thanks,
      Kevin

  9. How long do you have to be married before applying for a VA loan? My husband is veteran and we have only been married three weeks. Is it too soon?

    1. Hi Tasha:

      The VA doesn’t specify a minimum amount of time you have to be married. If you would like to go over your options online and apply, you can do so through Rocket Mortgage or speak with one of our Home Loan Experts at (888) 980-6716. Hope this helps!

      Thanks,
      Kevin Graham

  10. My husband retired from the Army National Guard with 23 consecutive years of service. He has since passed away from natural causes. I have never remarried and wanting to purchase a home with my daughter that we can share. As surviving spouse am I eligible for a VA loan?

    1. Hi Karen:

      Unfortunately, to qualify as a surviving spouse, your husband has to have died in service or from a service related disability. I’m sorry.

      Kevin Graham

      1. Karen, if you’ve not remarried you can apply for a VA HOME LOAN! The Caring for Camp Lejeune Families Act in 2012, allows for benefits to be extended for surviving spouses.
        Check it out on the net, but if the veteran who was rated totally disabled and was eligible for disability compensation at time of death from any cause.

        There were other kinds of surviving spouse situations that qualify too.
        Important thing is that prior to signing the Honoring America’s Veterans and Caring for Camp Lejeune Families Act in 2012, it was totally the old way.

        Kevin Graham please read up on this and help the surviving spouses…we spouses served with our loved ones and our country. Thank you

        1. Hi Pamela:

          I absolutely agree that spouses serve along with those that serve our country. It’s an important effort to be with your family while at the same time finding a way to provide emotional support to a spouse who might be on the other side of the world.

          We’re a nationwide lender. That means we have home loan experts licensed to help you get a mortgage in all 50 states. These are the people that know the nitty-gritty guidelines like this. I serve as our mortgage guru here on the blog team, but I have lots of general knowledge and get it over to an expert when I have to. I will tell you I did try to look up some information on the law, and without fully reading it, the regulations around disability aren’t clear to me. In these cases, I have to trust our specific internal guidelines and the thoughts of our experts who anyone can reach out to at (888) 980-6716. We’re always looking at every possible option for our clients.

          Thank you to you and your spouse for your service!

          Thanks,
          Kevin

    1. Hi Tim:

      If you pass, your wife just has to notify your mortgage servicer. She can continue to make payments and assume the loan.

      Thanks,
      Kevin

      1. How do you assume the loan? What if you can’t afford to assume? Do you just continue payments and stay in the house. I’m confused if spouse not on the mortgage and you are elderly.

        1. Hi Mickey:

          Typically, you would qualify for the loan based on your credit, but you do have the right to stay in the current loan and just keep making the payments. You just can’t refinance until your name is on the loan.

          Thanks,
          Kevin

  11. Hi… I am a veteran and my ex wife and I divorced 5yrs ago. We agreed to not fight, but when she did the divorce decree without me, she had them state that the loan will remain in my name for the remainder of the loan but she will make the payments. Problem is the loan is a VA loan that is only in my name, she’s not on the loan at all. Now i cant purchase a new home, nor use my VA loan because she has my benefits tied up. She’s on the deed but she’s wasnt used for the loan. Law states that a ex spouse is not entitled to a service members VA benefits…help me please

  12. A divorcing couple has 2 houses; 1st house was under his VA and the 2nd house was under her VA. With the upcoming divorce (not finalized yet) husband wants to stay in the 2nd house (her VA) and wants the wife to live in the first house (his VA). Is there a way they can trade their VAs? She will assume his VA under her name and he will assume her VAunder his name.

    1. Hi Mary:

      Veterans can assume other veterans’ loans without losing their VA entitlement. Every lender has different policies regarding assumption, but if you work with the lenders involved, there’s no reason this isn’t possible.

      Thanks,
      Kevin Graham

  13. A member of my family, a young veteran, a very trusting good guy, has recently married, with his new wife bought a home under the VA home loan and now they are divorcing at her request and she wants to keep the home. I feel he has been used for his VA home loan as they have not been married for a year yet. Knowing him he will blindly give her what ever she wants. Are there links of advice how he can protect himself now without getting further in the hole? They live in WA and I don’t believe there are any debt issues. Does she have to sign a release of liability? How can he direct his divorce lawyer, if he even gets one? In my many decades of life, I have seen other women do this, believe it is a scam young unknowing veterans should be mindful of.

    1. Hi Linda, thank you for reaching out. We’re sorry to hear that your family member is going through this. It sounds like him and his wife need to discuss the house in the divorce agreement. This situation can get a little complicated, especially if his wife is on the title. In this situation, the best thing to do would be to reach out to our team to discuss this veteran’s situation and possible options. Please direct your family member to our servicing team at 800-508-0944 so that we can see how we may be able to help. I hope this helps! – Allison

    2. My fiance is going through a similar situation. His wife filed for divorce two years ago, they own a VA loan backed home together. She refuses to leave the house and has a no contact order in place for him. His options are really only to sell the house or let it go into foreclosure because his credit score is not good enough to refinance and unfortunately he cannot just assume the loan without her signing. It’s horrible what these people do to Veterans. My fiance is 100% Combat related disabled veteran and if you ask me she’s extorting him in every way. Try to have the loan refinanced in his situation if his credit is good? I hope that helped a little….God Bless and Thank him for his service.

  14. I’m going thru a divorce and my retired military spouse is going to remain in the home financed on a VA loan. My only concern is taking my name off the VA loan so possibly in the future I can purchase a home and not have that home debt on my credit. Can this be done without him refinancing with the VA?

    Thanks

    1. Hi Terry:

      I would contact the lender about this, but you should be able to get your name taken off.

      Thanks,
      Kevin Graham

  15. Hi,
    My husband is a vet, and we are just climbing out of double job loss and foreclosure from 6 years ago. I have been building my credit, and qualify for an FHA loan, but my husband’s credit is still terrible and contains a huge credit card debt that we incurred durin our jobless time and that we have been unable to mediate. Would his credit keep us fromqualifying for a VA loan?
    Thanks.

    1. Hi, again.
      I should have read the entire thread before posting my question. I saw your answer where you stated the the veteran must have a score of at least 620 to be considered. Thanks.

      1. No need to apologize! We do have a service in QLCredit where you can get your credit report and score for free without affecting your score. You’ll get some tips based on the report on how to build it back up. I’m also going to recommend you talk to one of our Home Loan Experts. With a little work, we may be able to get you to where you need to be to qualify for a VA loan. You can get in touch with them at (888) 980-6716.

        Thanks,
        Kevin Graham

  16. Hi,
    I’m the veteran but I’m a stay at home mom now; so my husband is the sole income earner, can he be the primary and still get a VA loan or do I have to be primary? He is not a veteran…

    1. Hi Danielle:

      It shouldn’t matter who the primary is for the purposes of qualification. You just have to be on the loan.

      Thanks,
      Kevin Graham

  17. Hello,

    I work in HR for an employment/staffing agency in Texas. An applicant who has been desperately searching for a job was told recently that she would not be able to work through our agency and have it count as income for her VA loan.
    Her husband is a retired marine, so she would be the only additional income. She would be working full time, would be considered an employee of our company, and would receive all of her pay from our company. After a certain number of worked hours (about 2 months), she would be eligible to go on permanent with a client company.
    As Texas is an at-will employer state, any job could end at any time for any reason, even if she was a “permanent” employee of a business. Could someone explain a little better why she would not be able to receive credit for her reported income through a staffing agency?

    1. Hi Amy:

      Every situation is different. I can tell you, however, that income from what are considered temporary jobs often cannot be counted as income because there’s no guarantee of the income continuing on a lasting basis. Of course, many employees are at will, but particularly in staffing agencies, jobs can be short-term and the lender needs to see continuity of income in order to be able to count it. Otherwise, if the income were to go away tomorrow, the person would potentially have a hard time continuing to make payments. I know that’s not the answer you’re looking for, but hopefully, that gives a little bit better explanation.

      Thanks,
      Kevin Graham

  18. Hello I have a unique question.

    I have been divorced for 3 years now. I got out of the Navy in 2013 and upon getting my discharge my ex wife decided to divorce.

    We had a house under the va loan and both our names our on the deed. I’m the primary service member. However, I wasn’t in my right mind having come off a deployment and adapted back to real world.

    I didn’t get a lawyer but she did and from my understanding she had the house signed over to her without stating a clause to refinance.

    Is there any way possible I can either A get the house back. B have her refinance it and get it out of my name or C kick her out because now she is remarried and under a different last name and no longer tied to me.

    I really need answers because finally I have gotten the help I need and getting back on my feet after going homeless for a long time after the service thank you.

    1. Hi Ted:

      Thank you for your service and I’m glad to hear your life is moving in the right direction again.

      I’m going to move forward with the rest of this response with the preamble that I’m not a lawyer and to get a full idea of your legal options, it probably makes sense to talk to someone that is, especially since divorce law can be different all over the country.

      That said, I’m not really sure what you could do. The house has been signed over to her without a refinance clause. You’re going to have a very difficult time making her refinance I would think. You definitely can’t get the house back or kick her out, because legally it’s hers.

      But like I said, I’m not a lawyer and I don’t think like one. Maybe if you talk to someone, they would have an idea. I wish you luck. It sounds like you’re taking some positive steps to move forward.

      Thanks,
      Kevin Graham

  19. I just lost my husband a couple weeks ago to cancer. We had purchased our home in June of last year. He used a VA loan. We were not married at that time. We got married after. Can I continue with the loan and not lose our house?

    1. Hi Carmen:

      I’m very sorry to hear about your husband. Since you are living there, under federal law, you can legally assume the loan payments. You just have to let the mortgage servicer know and they can make sure to get you set up properly. I hope this helps!

      Thanks,
      Kevin Graham

  20. Hi, I close on my House using my VA Loan a week after I got married. My wife is not on the loan and I did not do a quit claim deed and her . If I divorce is my wife entitle to my VA home if I decide I still want it. The loan is in my name and I make all the payments. Plus pay the taxes and insurance.

    1. Hi Patrick:

      Whether your wife has a claim to the property depends on whether you live in a community property state. Check out this blog post for a list of states. If you do, you would have to work out who gets the property in the divorce. If it was agreed that she got the property, you could negotiate a clause into your agreement giving her a certain amount of time to refinance so you could use your VA loan again. I hope this helps!

      Thanks,
      Kevin Graham

  21. I’m the vet but my wife’s name is on the house. We are in the process of getting a divorce. From my understanding the house is mine but the equity on the house would be split. But I would not have to give up the house. She is not eligible for a VA loan so even if I decided to give up the house she would have to find different financing. Is this true

    1. Hi Sherry:

      If you give up the house, your VA loan could theoretically be transferred to her if you chose. If you did that, you wouldn’t be able to use your entitlement again to get another loan through the VA. Typically, that’s not what happens. If she gets the house in the divorce, you could make it a condition of the agreement that she refinance to get her own mortgage within a certain amount of time you mutually agree upon. I hope this helps!

      Thanks,
      Kevin Graham

      1. I am a veteran.
        I married after honorable service.
        After our third child i decided to use my veteran hime lian benefit.
        Spouse was a co-borrower.
        The bank informed him that i would have veteran interest asset of equity in the hime.
        With one year in the lian left we divorced and sold the home.
        The court ignired my veteran interest asset if equity in the home for my offset in the sale.
        Please give me a percentage of one spouse only being entitled veteran of home loan/sale.

        Thank you.

        1. Hi Sheila:

          There’s no difference between the equity stake for a veteran on the VA loan and any other equity arrangement. If the two of you were on the title and sold the home, you would get 50% of the proceeds after the mortgage was paid off. I think that’s what you’re asking.

          Thanks,
          Kevin Graham

  22. If a father has a VA loan financed by himslef abut adds the son on the deed 50%, and the son lives in the home fulltime. If the father dies, can the son resume the VA loan as is, or does he have to refinance the loan? Also, if the father dies and is on the deed with the one son, can the other children of the father, try to get the home from the son who owns 50% ? Would it be best to take off the father from the deed and only have the son own 100% of the deed, if that is possible with a VA loan and the deed?? Please reply as I am concerned if my other siblings trying to take the home from me if my father passes. Thank you, Chuck

    1. Hi Gloria and Chuck:

      You can assume the VA loan if your father passes. You just have to let the lender know that you’re taking over the payments. If you own 50% of the house, it would depend on how your father’s estate is settled. He does have the option of willing to you and you wouldn’t have to take him off the deed.

      Thanks,
      Kevin Graham

  23. I was wondering if a service member purchases a home using a VA loan before getting married can the civilian spouse be added to either the deed or paperwork? Also if the answer is no what happens if the service member dies or we get a divorce. Will the civilian spouse me eligible to get the house or am i not entitled to anything?

    1. Hi Tai:

      A civilian spouse can absolutely be added to the loan and the title if the couple so chooses. If added to the mortgage, you would probably end up refinancing at that point, but you would just have to do a quitclaim to be added to the title itself. This would make you eligible to get the property in the event of a divorce or the unfortunate circumstance of an untimely death. However, if you kept the VA loan, your spouse would not be able to get a VA loan again. For that reason, you might end up negotiating to refinance the property into a different loan within a certain amount of time after the divorce if you got the house.

      Thanks,
      Kevin Graham

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