Divorce and Your Student Loans

New York spouses who have student loan debt, or spouses married to people with student loan debt, may be curious how an impending divorce will affect their educational loans.

Let's say your spouse graduated college five years ago, but her career hasn't taken off. She's still working as a barista at Starbucks with an income of about $20,000 annually. On top of that, she has $30,000 worth of student debt you have been helping her pay off. What will your financial responsibilities be after the divorce?

It depends on when the student loan was acquired

For spouses who acquired loans before getting married, student loan debt will be considered separate liabilities. For spouses who acquired student loans during marriage, the debt will be considered marital liabilities and it will be the responsibility of both spouses.

Every New York divorce is different, but if there is a stark disparity between the incomes of the spouses, one spouse might need to help the other spouse with spousal support payments. This would also apply to situations where one spouse has a large outstanding student loan that he or she is struggling to pay off.

That said, marital liabilities may not be split 50/50 in divorce proceedings. In New York, which is an equitable distribution state, each divorce is reviewed on its own merits, and assets will be divided in a manner that the judge deems to be fair, which doesn't always mean equal.

Courts may require spousal support

If there is a stark disparity between the incomes and personal liabilities of the spouses, one spouse might need to help the other spouse with temporary spousal support payments. The moneyed spouse may need to continue helping the less-moneyed spouse with extra money each month. These payments are usually temporary and set for a reasonable amount of time to give the less-moneyed spouse the opportunity to find a better paying job or complete new employment training.

Navigating student loan debt with the help of a lawyer

In New York, every divorce matter is decided individually. Spouses may have the opportunity to argue their cases regarding who should be responsible for how much student loan debt during asset division proceedings. These arguments could also affect the potential for alimony payments. Speaking with an experienced divorce lawyer is a great way to evaluate how your student debt will be divided given the unique facts of your case.