Dividing debt: When student loans last longer than your marriage
America runs on credit, which means that most Americans have debt. Even if you are otherwise opposed to accumulating debt, you may have taken out sizable student loans to pay for your education. As of 2012, college graduates who financed a bachelor’s degree with student loans had an average of $29,400 in educational debt alone.
If you are going to get married (or have already gotten married) to another college graduate, your combined student loan debt could more than double. Have you ever considered what portion of this debt each of you might be responsible for if you ever divorce?
Generally speaking, student loan debt that each spouse acquired before getting married would stay separate in the event of divorce. However, this is not a guarantee. Perhaps the only hard-and-fast rule in family law is that there are no hard-and-fast rules.
In some cases, student loan debt could be split in half regardless of what each spouse accumulated before marriage. In other cases, the debt may be divided according to each spouse’s calculated ability to pay. If one spouse’s student loans were incurred during the marriage, this can further complicate debt division if the couple ever gets divorced.
Thankfully, there is a way to ensure some predictability with ownership of student loan debt. A prenuptial agreement can lay out exactly how student loan debts acquired during the marriage should be allocated after divorce. It may also be a way to make sure that premarital student loan debt stays with the spouse who accumulated it.
As with all family law issues, dividing debt can be tricky. That’s why it’s a good idea to seek the help and expertise of an experienced attorney.
Source: The Wall Street Journal, “Who Is Responsible for the Student Loans After Divorce?” Charlie Wells, April 13, 2014