Will you have to pay your spouse’s student loans once you divorce?

On Behalf of | Jun 4, 2021 | Divorce |

No one likes to lack control over a situation. An impending divorce can make you feel like you’ve lost your ability to exercise your own free will, though. One instance in which you may feel this way is when it comes to property division discussions. 

Such negotiations may involve the division of both your marital assets and debts. If your spouse has racked up significant student loan debt in recent years, then you may wonder if there’s a chance that you’ll have to repay at least a portion of it. It depends.

How property division divorce laws work in Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania applies the equitable distribution doctrine to property division matters in a divorce. Family law judges generally divide assets or debts “fairly” in such jurisdictions instead of “equally” or 50-50. The factors a judge may weigh in deciding what’s fair can be somewhat subjective, so it’s unlikely that any two divorcing couples will see a judge reach the same settlement twice.

The impact the equitable distribution doctrine has on student loan debt

Judges weigh various factors when deciding what constitutes fair debt division. In the case of student loans, a judge is likely to want to know if you sacrificed your career to relocate for your spouse’s schooling or if you took on a full-time job to cover household expenses. A judge might not make you liable for repaying your spouse’s student loan debt if you did either one of these so your spouse could pursue their degree.

The court will also want to know if your spouse spent all of their student loan funds on textbooks and tuition or if they also covered household expenses with the funds that they received. The court may conclude that your spouse met their financial contribution and that you mutually benefited from their loans in such an instance and order you to also repay the loans. The same may happen if you were a co-signer on the loan.

Guidance in navigating property division matters

Emotions are often raw for divorcing couples. This may make it challenging for them to reach property division settlements. A third party such as an attorney can step in and help move such conversations along.