Student Loan Debt Takes its Toll on Marriage

San Diego, CA – Student loan debt is higher than it’s ever been, having reached more than $1.531 trillion dollars in the second quarter of 2018, according to the Federal Reserve.

Given that seven in 10 college graduates leave school with debt, and that debt averages about $37,000 per student, it’s no surprise that student loans can be a source of stress among married couples. In fact, it’s one reason why many couples divorce.

San Diego Divorce Lawyer

A recent report from Student Loan Hero, a website for helping people organize, manage and repay their student loans, surveyed about 800 divorced adults in June. The survey revealed that more than a third of borrowers reported that college loans and other money factors contributed to their divorce, according to a CNBC article.

Student loan debt is second only to mortgage debt in the consumer debt category, and it ranks higher than credit cards and auto loans, according to Forbes. This debt often totals more than a graduate’s annual income at their first job after college, and it frequently prevents couples from buying their first home or starting a family.

Given that student loan debt could be a source of stress in a marriage, it’s a good idea to address it prior to tying the knot, said John Griffith, a San Diego divorce lawyer who is a certified family law specialist. That can be done with a prenuptial agreement. This type of agreement is commonly used to protect the assets you bring into a marriage, such as real estate, retirement savings and investments, but it also is a useful instrument in situations where you and/or your future spouse have debt, including student loan debt.

In this situation, a prenup can clearly outline that any funds used to pay down the student loan debt during the marriage are to be credited back off the top of the marital assets, the CNBC article stated.

What should you do if you failed to get a prenup and now your student loan debt has become a burden as you negotiate your divorce?

Assets and debts get divided in a divorce according to the laws of the state in which you live. If you both had the same amount of student loan debt coming into the marriage, it is likely that you’ll each become responsible for your own debt after your divorce. But if one of you has more debt than the other, you’ll have to work with your attorney or mediator to reach an agreement on how the debts will be divided.

If one or both of you took on student loan debt after you were married, the distribution of the debt responsibility could be trickier, depending on which state you live in.

This is from a Student Loan Hero article on the topic:

  • In some cases, the courts have awarded in favor of the supporting spouse who offered aid to the spouse who borrowed the student loans. This can include driving the student to campus, taking over the household chores, and even delaying their own education.
  • In this case, the supporting spouse offset the value of the debt by helping their partner with the degree in non-monetary ways and may not be responsible for making the actual payments.

It’s a good idea to meet with a family law attorney to discuss your situation and get some guidance on the best way to reach an agreement on how to divide the debt.

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