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What Happens to Student Loan Debt in a Divorce?

Posted by Joshua Wilson | Jul 11, 2019 | 0 Comments

Student loan debt is increasing for young people across the country. According to one survey, 58% of 2017 graduates in the state of Missouri leave with student loan debt. The average amount of debt nationally for 2017 grads is $28,650. Students pursuing advanced degrees can end up hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt. 

For couples where one or both spouses have student loan debt, that financial burden can put stress on the relationship. According to a CNBC article, one in eight couples blame student loan debt as a specific cause for their divorce. When considering a separation, couples may need to know what happens to student loan debt in a divorce.

Equitable Distribution of Assets and Debts 

Dividing up assets and property in a divorce in Missouri is based on equitable distribution. In equitable distribution, assets and liabilities acquired during the marriage are divided equally. This requires classifying assets and debts as either marital or non-marital property. Student loan debt can be difficult to classify as either marital or non-marital property and may depend on a number of factors including: 

  • Was the couple married before, after, or during the time student loans were acquired?
  • Did the spouse co-sign on the student loans?
  • Was there a prenuptial or postnuptial agreement?
  • Did the individual or couple live in another state at the time?

Fairly Dividing Student Loan Debt of One or Both Spouses 

Equitable distribution is not the same as a 50-50 split. If there is $50,000 in marital debt, a judge may or may not give each spouse $25,000 of the debt. Division is based on a number of factors, based on what is fair under the circumstances. These factors may include:  

  • The duration of the marriage;
  • Spouses' separate economic circumstances (prospects for future income, ability to earn, how they're currently doing financially);
  • Contributions of a spouse to the household while one spouse was going to college;
  • Amount of each spouses' individual and shared debts, including student loan debt; and
  • The value of each spouse's non-marital property and amount of non-marital debt. 

In general, judges in equitable distribution cases do not like to keep spouses attached to property, assets, or debts after a divorce. If both spouses had some level of student loan debt, they would likely keep their individual debts on student loans and the judge could distribute other assets for an overall fair distribution. 

Student Loans Acquired Before Marriage 

If an individual got student loans to go to college or get an education before he or she was married, that debt is generally considered non-marital debt. During the marriage, the other spouse would not likely be responsible for the debt and upon divorce, the debt would likely stay with the original borrowing spouse. 

However, if the individual decided to refinance the loan during the marriage and the other spouse co-signed for the loan, both spouses may be liable on the debt. Talk to your Raymore, Missouri divorce attorney about your debts and liabilities on student loan debts after divorce so you are not left having to pay for your ex's debts. 

Consult an Experienced Missouri Divorce Lawyer

Student loan debt and other financial stress can be a cause for divorce. Make sure you understand how debts will be divided after a divorce. If you have questions about avoiding liability for your spouse's expenses and student loan debts, contact the Joshua Wilson Law Firm today by calling (816) 331-9968 or fill out our online form.

About the Author

Joshua Wilson

Divorce is complex and highly emotional. Everything is going to change, including your most important personal relationships, your finances, your daily routine, and -- of course -- your home life. This can be a stressful time, and the parties involved often are not thinking clearly. You need some...


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