Student Loans and Divorce

January 28, 2022

Student Loans and Divorce

Filing for divorce can be an emotionally draining experience. Individuals who go through a divorce need to focus on their financial future, the division of assets, custody rights, and other aspects of divorce. On top of that, there is the added stress associated with student loans and divorce. Dealing with student loans can be complicated and may require extensive legal knowledge and negotiation skills. If you are about to file for divorce or are already in the middle of divorce proceedings involving student loan debt, consider speaking with an experienced divorce attorney to guide you through the property division process. Our skilled divorce attorneys at Johnson Law Group are familiar with how student loans are handled in divorce cases in Colorado. Call (720) 463-4333 or text our office at (720) 730-4558.

Who Is Responsible for Student Loans in a Divorce?

Determining who gets what and who is responsible for what can be challenging, especially when a divorce involves student loan debt. According to Education Data Initiative, student loan debt in the United States totals a staggering $1.75 trillion. Over 43 million borrowers across the country owe an average of nearly $40,000 in student loan debt each. Spouses’ responsibility for repaying student loans depends on the following factors:

  • Did a spouse acquire student loan before or during the marriage?
  • Does the divorcing couple live in a community property or equitable division state?
  • Did the couple sign a prenuptial or postnuptial agreement? If so, does the agreement say anything about student loan debt?
  • Did one spouse cosign the student loan?

Going through a divorce always involves untangling finances and dividing assets and debts. However, the divorce process can become even more complicated when one or both spouses have student loan debt.

How Do Courts Divide Student Loans Acquired Before the Marriage?

When getting a divorce with any amount of student loan debt, the parties might wonder who will be responsible for repaying the debt after the dissolution of marriage. If only one spouse owes student loan debt, will the court divide the debt between both spouses in a divorce? The responsibility to pay student loan debt depends on when the debt was acquired. Any debt acquired before the marriage remains in the name of the spouse who took the student loan.

How Do Courts Divide Student Loans Acquired During the Marriage?

The division of student loan debt acquired after the parties get married is more legally challenging and complicated. Any assets or debts acquired in the course of a marriage is considered marital or community property. What happens to marital debts in the event of divorce depends on whether the parties are seeking a divorce in an equitable distribution or community property state.

In states with community property laws, marital assets and debts are divided equally between the divorcing spouses. However, the vast majority of states, including Colorado (C.R.S. § 14-10-113(2)), adopted equitable distribution laws, which means marital property and debts are split in an equitable and fair manner. Consider contacting a Denver divorce attorney at Johnson Law Group to talk about the division of student loan debt and other debts in your particular case.

Factors Considered by a Judges When Dividing Student Loans

In equitable distribution states, courts consider a number of factors when determining the fairest and most equitable way to divide assets and debts, including student loans. Some of the factors considered by judges include:

  1. How the student loan debt was used. If student loan was used to pay for a spouse’s education, including tuition fees and other college-related costs, the court may make the spouse fully responsible for their student loan. However, if the funds were used to pay for living expenses and other costs to benefit both spouses, the court might consider the student loan debt to be shared debt.
  2. The contributions made by the other spouse. If a spouse contributed to the other’s education or played a supporting role, the court might consider that the spouse is not liable for the student loan debt because he/she already paid their dues.
  3. The earning capacity. The court will also consider the earning capacity of each spouse to determine how to split student loan debt between the spouses.
  4. Whether the other spouse cosigned the student loan. A spouse is more likely to be responsible for their spouse’s student loan debt if they cosigned the loan.

How Can Divorcing Spouses Deal with Student Loans?

Student loans and divorce can be complicated, which is why divorcing couples need to understand possible ways to deal with student loan debts to avoid unnecessary disputes and issues during divorce proceedings. Some of the most common ways of dealing with student loan debt in a divorce include:

  • Paying off the debt in full by selling the couple’s marital assets or using other financial resources through a marital settlement;
  • Refinancing the student loan debt into two smaller loans. Each spouse would be responsible for paying their share of the debt after refinancing in their name; and
  • One spouse taking full responsibility for repaying the student loan debt in exchange for receiving other assets.

Failure to reach an agreement regarding the division of student loan debt can lead to disputes, resulting in the added stress, costs, and time.

How Can an Attorney Help You with Student Loans and Divorce?

If you or your spouse has incurred a significant amount of student loan debt, you might wonder, “Who will be responsible for repaying the debt in the event of divorce?” Consider consulting with a knowledgeable attorney who knows how to handle the division of student loan debts in divorce proceedings.

At Johnson Law Group, our skilled and results-driven divorce attorneys are prepared to help you understand ways to resolve your disputes with the spouse regarding the division of marital assets and debt. We have extensive experience in helping clients develop creative solutions to resolve disputes regarding student loan debt. Obtain a case review with our attorneys to discuss student loans and divorce in your specific case. You can either call our office at (720) 463-4333 or send us a text at (720) 730-4558.

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