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What Are The VA Loan Spouse Requirements?

May 7, 2024



It’s no secret that Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) loans come with extensive benefits for eligible veterans and service members. You can’t match the ability to get a mortgage with lower interest rates and no down payment requirement.

But there are some extra considerations when qualified service members and veterans want to include their civilian spouse in this type of mortgage. This makes it essential to research the VA loan spouse requirements before you start shopping for a VA loan.

Can A Military Service Member’s Spouse Get A VA Loan?

Spouses of an active duty or former service member can qualify for a VA loan through the Department of Veterans Affairs as a co-signer or co-borrower. Qualified surviving spouses may be able to take out a VA loan on their own, which we’ll discuss later on. Since the VA home loan is a type of government loan that offers lower restrictions and requires no down payment, that’s great news!

Applying For A VA Loan With A Spouse

When a veteran’s spouse co-signs on the mortgage, their income and credit standing will affect the loan details. With that, a veteran’s spouse with a high income and great credit rating could help the service member qualify for a larger loan or better interest rates. But on the flip side, a military spouse with a bad credit score could lead to higher interest rates.

So, it’s absolutely possible for a service member’s spouse to get on a VA loan. But veterans and service members should take a look at their spouse’s credit score and income before putting their name on the official application. A service member might decide to hold off if their spouse’s credit score is low.

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How Can A Surviving Spouse Get A VA Loan?

The Honoring America's Veterans and Caring for Camp Lejeune Families Act of 2012 changed the borrowing landscape for surviving spouses pursuing a VA loan. Before 2012, military members must have died of military-related causes in order for their spouses to apply for a VA loan.

But after 2012, the requirements expanded to include surviving spouses in the following situations:

  • Your spouse was eligible for or received Dependency and Indemnity Compensation.
  • Your spouse died in service or from a service-related disability and you remarried at the age of 57 or older after December 31, 2003.
  • Your spouse was missing in action (MIA) or a prisoner of war (POW) for a period of at least 90 days. (This is a one-time use provision.)
  • Your spouse was rated totally disabled from their service for a qualifying amount of time and died of unrelated causes.
  • Your spouse died while on active duty or from a service-related issue and you didn’t remarry after their death.

Getting A Certificate Of Eligibility As A Surviving Spouse

The exact eligibility requirements for surviving spouses can vary based on the type of VA loan you’re pursuing. If you believe you qualify for a VA loan as a surviving spouse, then you’ll need to apply for a Certificate of Eligibility (COE).

This verifies your eligibility as a surviving spouse, letting your lender know you qualify for a VA loan. You can apply for your COE online, or your lender can assist you with requesting one.

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How Can Divorce Affect VA Loan Spouse Requirements?

The VA loan is designed to help veterans achieve the dream of homeownership. With that, there are very strict occupancy requirements regarding divorce. Post-divorce finances are never easy, but a VA loan adds more complications to them.

Ex-Spouses Can’t Get A New VA Loan

First, it’s important to understand that ex-spouses of service members aren’t eligible for a new VA loan. That’s a relatively cut-and-dried rule. But if you and your former spouse are on the same VA loan together, it gets a bit more complicated.

Ex-Spouses Can Sometimes Stay In The Home

In the event of a divorce, the civilian ex-spouse can remain in the home if they were a co-signer on the loan. But if the civilian former spouse wasn’t a co-signer, they can only stay in the home if they assume the existing VA loan or refinance.

Ex-Spouses Could Impact The VA Entitlement

If the civilian ex-spouse keeps the home and the mortgage, there are also VA loan entitlement issues to consider. The service member won’t be able to restore their entitlement until their ex refinances the loan or pays off the existing VA loan.

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FAQs About VA Loan Spouse Requirements

Still have questions? Let’s take a closer look at some frequently asked questions about spouse requirements for a VA loan.

Does my spouse have to be on my VA loan?

As a qualified veteran or service member, your spouse doesn’t have to be on your VA loan. However, adding a spouse as a co-borrower could increase the amount you qualify for.

Does my spouse’s credit score affect my VA loan?

In many states, the lender won’t consider your spouse’s credit score if they aren’t on the loan. But if you add your spouse as a co-borrower, their credit score will affect your VA loan.

Keep in mind that the VA loan is a nonconforming loan, and while the VA doesn’t have any set minimum credit score requirements, lenders do. Rocket Mortgage® requires clients to have at least a 580 median FICO® Score. If your spouse has a bad credit score, adding them as a co-borrower would impact your approval chances.

Can a non-spouse be on the title on a VA loan?

Technically, a non-spouse can be on the title of a VA loan and will go through the loan underwriting process as a co-borrower with you. However, many lenders, including Rocket Mortgage, don’t accept a non-spouse as a co-borrower. That’s why you should check with your lender before adding someone else to the mortgage application.

Who can be on the title on a VA loan?

When taking out a VA home loan, there are several scenarios in which another individual can be on the title. The veteran can be the sole person on the title, the veteran can be on the title with their spouse or multiple veterans can be on a title together. A veteran and civilian can also be on the title provided the non-military borrower paid a down payment toward their portion of the loan.

What are other available loans for military spouses?

If a veteran’s spouse doesn’t qualify for a VA loan, chances are they’re looking for their next best mortgage option. Other government-backed loans, such as U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) loans, offer similar benefits like no down payment requirement, but the home must be in an eligible area. Federal Housing Administration (FHA) loans typically have more lenient requirements. A mortgage expert can help you evaluate your options and find the best fit.

Rocket Mortgage doesn’t offer USDA loans at this time.

The Bottom Line

As a veteran or military spouse, understanding the VA loan spouse requirements can make a big difference in the home buying process. If you’re ready to dive into the home search, apply for a VA loan with Rocket Mortgage.

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Sarah Sharkey

Sarah Sharkey is a personal finance writer who enjoys diving into the details to help readers make savvy financial decisions. She’s covered mortgages, money management, insurance, budgeting, and more. She lives in Florida with her husband and dog. When she's not writing, she's outside exploring the coast. You can connect with her on LinkedIn.