Last week, the Wall Street Journal had an interesting story about student loan debt responsibility following a divorce.
The Journal reported that college students and alumni are now more in debt than ever because of student loans, with students who earned bachelor’s degrees in 2012 having an outstanding loan balance of $29,400, with those with advanced degrees having even more.
It raises an interesting question: what happens to student loan debt after a divorce? The Journal reported that it really depends on where you live and when you acquired the debt.
“Legal experts say one of the most common misconceptions about dividing debt in a divorce is the belief that educational debt incurred before a marriage always becomes shared, marital debt once a couple gets hitched,” the Journal reported.
Many of the experts the paper talked to said that student loan debt acquired before a marriage remains that of the original debtor.
Some of the borrowers the Journal talked to were caught off guard during the divorce process, when they learned that they would be on the hook for the balance of the loans they acquired before marriage. In a few cases, divorcees had to work with lenders on changing payment plans following a divorce, to meet their current financial situation.
Paul Goldhamer, the matrimonial department head of KGG says that premarital debt is generally not divided. But, (in NY, not in NJ ) if the value of a license or degree is subject to Equitable Distribution, the debt will be deducted from the value of the degree.
In cases where student loans were acquired during a marriage—that is where things get murky, but not in New York. In New York it is a debt to be equitably distributed.
“In many states, divorce courts have the discretion to divide marital property in a holistic way,” the Journal reported. “That means that if the educational debt is considered marital property, they have the option of taking into account contextual issues, such as each spouse’s ability to pay it off.”
What Will Happen to My Student Loans After a Divorce?
If you or your spouse acquired student loans during your marriage and you have concerns about who would be responsible for paying them following a divorce, you should contact our experienced family law attorneys.
Debt division can be a very complicated issue. If a person acquired student loans during a marriage and a divorce would cause him or her to struggle financially, it is very possible that a court would consider income and award spousal support.
Let our firm arrange your initial consultation. Our family law offices in New York or New Jersey can be reached at (800) 711-5258. We understand that student loan debt can be problematic and we will make sure the issue is promptly addressed in your case.
Kantrowitz, Goldhamer & Graifman, P.C. – Bergen County Divorce Attorneys
KGG’s Corner: Approximately 60 percent of all college graduates acquired student loan debt to help pay for costs.