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VA Loan Spouse Requirements: Co-signers, Surviving Spouses and Divorces

To repay those who have served our country, VA loans offer fantastic benefits that are hard to match, including the option for a zero-down payment and no private mortgage insurance requirement.

When applying for a VA loan, eligible service members and Veterans may wonder if their non-military spouses can also share these benefits. In this article, we'll explore VA loan spouse requirements, including co-signers, surviving spouses and divorce's impact on VA loans.

Can a spouse be on a VA loan?

Yes, civilian spouses can be a co-signer or co-borrower on a VA loan with their service member or Veteran spouse. Typically, a non-military spouse may only use a VA loan with their eligible spouse on the loan.

Does a VA loan require a credit check for spouse co-signers?

Yes, applying for a VA loan with a spouse co-signer requires your VA lender to check both of your credit scores. They will also calculate factors like debt-to-income (DTI) ratio and residual income. While the VA does not set a minimum credit score requirement, most VA loan lenders prefer a FICO score of 620 or higher.

How Spousal Income Affects a VA Loan

If you are considering adding your spouse to your VA loan as a co-signer, it's essential to weigh the pros and cons.

If the non-veteran spouse's income is significant, it could potentially help the service member qualify for a larger loan amount or a lower interest rate. In such cases, adding them to the title might be a good idea.

Conversely, adding a spouse with a poor financial profile may negatively impact the loan's terms. When adding your spouse to your VA loan, carefully evaluate the potential benefits and drawbacks to determine if it will do more harm than good.

Can a spouse who’s not a co-signer be on the title but not the mortgage for a VA loan?

According to a 2016 VA Circular, a non-borrowing spouse cannot have their name on the title without also signing the mortgage note or a deed of trust. If a non-borrowing spouse was allowed to have their name on the title but not the mortgage, the lender would have less legal grounds to foreclose on the property, as the non-borrowing spouse would not be obligated to repay the loan.

However, that Circular was rescinded in 2018, and the current conditions of the policy are unclear. For more information, talk to a qualified VA loan lender to learn more about their practices and policies regarding this topic.

VA Loan Eligibility for Surviving Spouses

Surviving spouses have the option to use their spouse's VA loan benefits after the Veteran has passed. However, surviving spouses must submit specific documentation to their lender before they can be approved for a VA loan.

The most crucial document to acquire is the Certificate of Eligibility (COE). A COE is a VA document proving you meet the VA loan requirements. Your VA loan lender can help you request your COE, or you can send a Request for a Certificate of Eligibility (VA Form 26-1880) to your regional loan center, whose address can be found on the last page of the form.

You'll also likely need to provide a copy of the Veteran's DD214 (or other separation papers), a copy of your marriage license and the Veteran's death certificate.

How does divorce impact VA loans?

Divorce can significantly affect VA loans, and the outcome depends on the situation:

  • Keeping the home: Civilian ex-spouses can keep the home secured by a VA loan after a divorce if they assume the VA loan or refinance to another loan type. In many cases, assuming the existing VA loan is beneficial because VA loans often come with lower interest rates and lower fees than other loan types.
  • Selling the home: If neither you nor your spouse want to keep the home, you must sell it and pay off the remaining balance on the loan.
  • New VA loan: If you have divorced your service member or Veteran spouse, you can no longer acquire a VA loan unless you are a service member or Veteran yourself.

Whether you're considering a co-signer, are a surviving spouse or are dealing with a divorce, knowing the VA loan spouse requirements can help you make informed decisions and access VA loan benefits.

Be sure to consult with a qualified VA loan lender to discuss your situation and explore the best options available.