When dividing up assets and debts for a marriage, often there is student loan debt that needs to be considered. The first thing to be decided is whether the debt is marital debt or not. Debts are part of the division of property and the Court must decide how debts are divided just as much as they need to decide how assets will be divided. There is a specific case on student loans that came out in 1997 where during the marriage the wife earned a law degree and incurred student loans in the process. The husband argued that the law degree was not a marital asset so any debt related to it could not be a marital debt. The Court of Appeals disagreed. They found that during marriages often the parties have a common goal in having one of them pursue higher education. Both parties expect that they will share in the rewards of the degree. In addition, sometimes when people take out student loans they get extra money that is used to help support the family as well as paying educational expenses. The bottom line is that the Court found that student loan debt incurred during the marriage is marital debt.
When the Court divides assets and debts, the Court is supposed to divide them in an equitable manner which does not always mean an equal manner. Basically the division needs to be fair. Student loan debts are unusual in that they are likely to benefit one spouse more than the other.
It is common for the Court to allocate the debt in different proportions and the spouse who has received the education may very well be ordered to pay the bulk of the debt. One factor that influences this is how much of the student loan debt was for actual tuition and costs and how much was additional money that was used to help support the family. For this reason, if you are involved in a case with student loan debt and money was borrowed to help support the family, it is important that you start gathering that information right away as it can take some time to do so. You need to get records from the lender regarding how much was paid for educational costs and how much was paid for other purposes.