A person who is considering divorce and whose spouse has student loan debt may be concerned about whether that student loan debt will be divided in a divorce. Most of the time, a person is responsible for the debts brought into the marriage, including student loan debt. However, if the debt is incurred after the marriage, a spouse could be responsible for a portion of it. In South Carolina, an equitable property state, several factors could influence a judge’s decision about how to divide this debt.
A spouse who has cosigned on a student loan will generally share equal responsibility. A judge could still hold a spouse partly responsible for student loan debt even if it was only in one person’s name if the couple used the loans to pay joint expenses, such as rent, and it was not solely used for education-related expenses.
A spouse who has supported the student while in school may be less likely to be held responsible. A judge might assume that spouse has already paid sufficient dues. Another consideration could be which spouse is the higher earner. If the debtor makes substantially more than the lower-income spouse, the student loans might be the sole responsibility of the debtor. The complexity around student loans means a person may want to contact an attorney to discuss the issue.
Dealing with debt in a divorce can cause particular problems since creditors are not bound by the terms of a divorce agreement. This means that if the debt is in one person’s name, creditors may pursue that person for nonpayment even if both spouses have agreed to pay off the debt together. Couples may want to try to work together and with their attorneys to transfer debt into both names or to offset debt with a larger share of property.