The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) has reported1 that individuals in the United States owe more than $1 trillion in federal student loan debt. Because so many people have taken out loans to fund their education, it is not a surprise that numerous married couples are repaying student loans for at least one spouse, if not both. During marriage, couples tend to mingle finances and work together to pay down debts. However, if you or your spouse decides to file for divorce, you may find yourself suddenly facing a mountain of debt on your own. Many people wonder whether or not the responsibility of paying student loans off will be shared following a divorce.
The answer to this question depends on your particular situation, and an experienced family law attorney at the Dickson Frohlich can evaluate your individual case. If you are facing divorce in Seattle or Tacoma, please call us today at (206) 621-1110 or (253) 572-1000 today. In the meantime, the following is some information regarding student loan debt after divorce.
Student loan debt was incurred before marriage and is in one spouse’s name only
If you bring individual debts into a marriage, chances are that you will be singly responsible for those debts after the marriage ends, as well. The same goes for any student loans that your spouse brought into the marriage.
Student loan debt was incurred during the marriage and is in one spouse’s name only
Generally speaking, any debt accrued during a marriage is considered marital debt and the responsibility will be divided between the spouses upon divorce according to Washington state laws.2 How the debt is divided will depend on you individual circumstances. However, if only one spouse reaped benefits from the student loans, a court may require that spouse to repay them on their own.
Student loan debt is in the names of both spouses
If you and your spouse cosigned on the student loan debt, you will both technically be responsible for repaying the debt. This is true whether the debt was incurred prior to or during the marriage. However, if the cosigned loans went solely toward your spouse’s education, you may agree that your spouse will repay that debt on his own. However, if your spouse fails to make payments in the future, your credit will also be affected unless your spouse is able to refinance the loans as individual debt. This can lead to additional legal issues and the lengthy process of having your credit corrected based on your divorce agreement.