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Who pays student loans after a divorce?

One of the most contentious issues in divorce may not even deal with property or money. In fact, the division of debt may be just as complicated and arduous as any issue dealing with positive assets. With many marital debts in both spouses’ names, the responsibility to pay such debt rests with both parties even though there are different views on who should pay the debt. 

These disputes may commonly arise with credit card debt, but an increasing number of divorces involve student loan debt. After all, spouses may go back to school to receive advanced degrees after they get married. While student loans taken out before marriage are commonly considered separate property, those incurred during the marriage may not be. 

California family court judges have broad discretion in how they allocate debt, so the responsibility for paying this debt may not lie with the person who went to school. There are a number of factors that the court may consider in assigning responsibility for the debt, including how much debt is involved, the person’s ability to repay the debt, and other assets that have been divided.

Because of this, spouses with student loan debts should be careful about how they plan to pay for their debts, and they should not simply assume that their soon-to-be ex-spouse will be responsible for them. As such, a conversation with an experienced family law attorney may be helpful in resolving questions about the allocation of student loan debt, as well as clarifying a spouse’s responsibility absent a court order. 

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