Will I Have to Pay My Spouse’s Student Loans if We Get Divorced?

student-loansStudent loan debt presents an outsized portion of overall American debt. As of September 2021, Americans collectively owe more than 1.6 trillion dollars of student debt. The average debt per person is at an all-time high of nearly forty thousand dollars, while those who hold advanced degrees often owe enough money in student loans to buy an entire house.

For many couples, one or both partners obtaining college degrees promised a brighter future for their marriage and family. Whether or not this education actually resulted in better career prospects, the debt must be paid. This leaves many young couples wondering,  “If we get divorced, will I have to help my spouse pay for their student loans?”

Are Student Loans Considered Marital Property?

If a spouse incurred student loan debt before getting married, this debt will almost certainly be considered non-marital debt and will not be divided in a divorce. But if a spouse accumulates debt of any kind during the marriage, it is generally considered marital property. This is true whether the debt is a mortgage, credit card debt, or student loans – even if only one spouse applied for the debt.

Student loans accumulated during the marriage are generally considered marital debt because they are seen as having been undertaken in an effort to increase earning potential that would benefit both partners.

How Are Student Loans Divided in Divorce?

Illinois is an equitable distribution state, meaning that assets and debt are divided in a way that is fair, rather than exactly equal. Judges can use many factors to decide how to divide a couple’s debt, including:

  • Differences in earning potential – If the spouse with the student debt will likely make substantially more than the other spouse, he or she may be awarded most or all of it, especially if he or she just finished their education and the marriage had yet to benefit from the increased earning potential.
  • How the money was used – If the money from the loans was used to pay for the living expenses of both spouses rather than exclusively for classes and books, the loans are more likely to be divided between spouses.
  • Whether one spouse consigned – If both spouses were guarantors of the debt, they are both likely to be responsible for paying for it, even after a divorce.
  • Other debts and assets – The allocation of other marital debts and assets can affect how student loan debt is distributed. Judges will not divide assets in such a way that one spouse walks away with little or no debt and the other spouse will be burdened for many years.

Speak with a Rolling Meadows, IL Marital Debt Division Attorney

The prospect of helping your spouse pay for a substantial student loan debt can be daunting. At Cosley Law Office, our experienced Arlington Heights divorce attorney, Mr. Donald J. Cosley, is committed to helping you understand what your responsibilities and rights are in a divorce. We can give you advice and we will advocate tirelessly on your behalf for as long as it takes – whatever your needs, we are here for you. Call our offices today to schedule your free initial consultation at 847-253-3100.

 

Sources:

https://www.investopedia.com/student-loan-debt-2019-statistics-and-outlook-4772007

https://www.ilga.gov/legislation/ilcs/ilcs4.asp?DocName=075000050HPt%2E+V&ActID=2086&ChapterID=59&SeqStart=6200000&SeqEnd=8675000

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