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Dividing student loans in a divorce

Many people apply for and take out student loans to pay for their undergraduate, graduate or professional degrees. 

In general, the student assumes financial responsibility for these loans. However, in some situations, a married couple may share responsibility for one spouse’s student loans. When the couple gets divorced, the spouses must determine how to assign or share this debt. 

Single or joint student loan debt liability factors

Student Loan Hero explains that multiple factors may contribute to both spouses sharing liability for one spouse’s student loan debt. A loan taken out by one spouse after the couple’s date of marriage may well fund the couple’s rent or mortgage payments while one person attends school. This may increase the chance that the couple must share responsibility for the debt during a divorce. 

Degrees as joint assets

According to U.S. News and World Report, a judge may deem a degree a joint asset. This would contribute to the need for both spouses to share the debt during and after their divorce. 

Ability to repay student loan debt

A spouse with limited earning power may not need to repay a partner’s student loan debt in part due to inability to afford the loan payments. 

Timing of loans relative to marriage

A person who took out a loan to pay for an undergraduate degree and then got married 10 years later would likely need to repay the undergraduate student loan debt on his or her own. Conversely, a person who took out a loan to pay for a professional degree many years after getting married may share that debt with a spouse.