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Is student debt divided in divorce?

Spring is here and with it comes graduation season. For some Florida college students, this will be the year they finally receive their degree. With a degree comes the hope of one day having a successful career, but undoubtedly, for many students, a degree also comes with massive debt.

While you may work hard to pay off the debt in full, what if that doesn’t happen before you get married? Is that debt exclusively yours or will your spouse be responsible for it if you ever split up?

While some people might think (or at least hope) that the responsibility of paying off their student debt will be divided between both spouses, that isn’t the case if you acquired your loans while you were single. It’s still yours even if you got the loans while the two of you lived together before marriage. The basic rule is that if it was yours before marriage, it will be yours after divorce.

If a spouse got their degree during the marriage, it may be a different story. Generally, the debt might still go to the spouse who incurred them, but there are exceptions. If there is a large disparity in income between divorcing spouses, spousal support might make up the difference in order to help the lower earner cover their debt payments.

Similarly, the person who supported the degree-seeker during their education might be compensated. That person may have delayed their own career goals, cooked meals or spent time driving the degree earner during the course of their education.

It may not seem like an important discussion to have before marriage, but not doing so could lead to more disagreement if the spouses ever decide to divorce. A family lawyer can help a couple put together a prenuptial agreement that would outline who is responsible for student debt if a divorce ever happens.

Source: The Wall Street Journal, “Who Is Responsible for the Student Loans After Divorce?” Charlie Wells, April 13, 2014

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