Most future spouses won’t be responsible for their partner’s student loans, but it’ll depend on when the debt was acquired and other factors. Before getting married, it’s best to know who is liable for student loan debt since the answer can be surprisingly complicated at times.
- Am I responsible for my spouse’s student loan debt?
- Is your spouse responsible for student loans incurred before marriage?
- Will your former spouse be responsible for student loans after a divorce?
- Am I responsible for my spouse’s student loan debt after death?
- Balancing student loans and marriage
Marrying someone with student loan debt won’t make you liable for their loans.
No. Student debt that you bring into a marriage remains your debt.
This scenario also applies if you marry someone who has federal PLUS loans, which are available to parents and graduate and professional students.
Yes. If you live in a community property state and your spouse borrows a student loan while you’re married, the debt is considered community debt. Whether it is from federal or private loans, it’s shared by both spouses.
There are nine community property states:
- New Mexico
Separately, Alaska couples can opt in to community property rules.
No. It’s a different story, however, if you cosigned for your spouse’s student loans before the marriage.
If you’re a cosigner, you’re legally responsible for the debt if the borrower stops repaying the loan, which can make you subject to:
- Collection efforts
- Wage garnishments
That’s not it, though. Your student loan agreement could include a cosigner clause that forces full repayment under certain circumstances, such as if the main borrower files for bankruptcy. And both your and your spouse’s credit scores could be severely damaged.
Yes. If you’re a cosigner on one or more private students loans and you get divorced, your legal obligations remain. It’s irrelevant to the lender whether you’re married.
No. Federal student loans don’t require cosigners. (A spouse can cosign on a partner’s income-driven repayment application, but you’re not obligated to repay the loan.)
No and yes. Your ex-spouse will remain solely liable for their loans if you get a divorce, unless you live in a community property state. Debt assumed during a marriage in a community property state is considered the couple’s joint debt, but Stanley Tate, a student loan attorney in the St. Louis suburbs, said this reality is misleading.
A divorce settlement, Tate said, might state that the divorced couple will each be responsible for the student loan debt — but the lender won’t care. A lender will still consider the borrower to be liable for the loan. If the former spouse, who didn’t take out the loan, stops paying, the lender will only go after the original borrower. When this happens, the aggrieved party could sue if their ex-spouse doesn’t pay, but Tate said this doesn’t happen in the “overwhelming number of cases” because of the cost.
Again, it depends.
No. Federal student loans are discharged if a borrower dies, while federal PLUS loans are discharged if the parent borrower or student dies.
Yes and no. If you cosigned on a private loan with your spouse and they died, you may have to continue making loan payments. While it’s not common, some private loan lenders — such as Sallie Mae — will wipe out the debt if a student loan borrower dies.
Yes. You’ll be obligated to pay your spouse’s debt if you combined your college debt into a private spousal consolidation loan, said Betsy Mayotte, president of The Institute of Student Loan Advisors, a nonprofit that provides advice to borrowers.
Some couples are tempted to consolidate their student loan debt into a private loan, especially if they could get a lower interest, but it’s usually a bad idea, Mayotte said. The federal government stopped allowing joint spousal consolidation loans in 2006.
Combining households financially will take planning, compromise and a game plan. Student loan liability isn’t the only issue that couples need to focus on when merging households.
“People should be talking about this before marriage,” said Matthew Alden, a consumer law attorney in Cleveland. “It’s a major issue, and everybody needs to go in with their eyes wide open.”
Be honest when discussing your financial situations
During money discussions, it’s important for future partners to be completely honest with each other about student loan debt — or any debt for that matter. Regardless of who is bringing debt into the marriage, it’s important to develop a plan with which both partners agree. This is critical because the loans will impact the overall finances of the household.
Mayotte said she has witnessed a wide range of reaction when individuals broach the subject of student loan debt to their future partners. On the extreme end, Mayotte has seen individuals end engagements because they don’t want to marry someone saddled with a great deal of student loan debt. In contrast, Mayotte said she hears this a lot: “I’m marrying the love of my life and [they have] never paid attention to these loans and I want to get a handle on it.”
There are also spouses who conceal their debt, Mayotte said. Their dishonesty, she said, can be revealed in situations, such as when a couple is buying a house that requires a credit check or a tax refund is garnished.
Pay back your student loan debt wisely
Discussing if your soon-to-be spouse is responsible for student loan debt, before marriage, is critical because there are a variety of repayment plans available for those who borrow federal loans.
The following income-driven repayment methods for federal student loans only consider the borrower’s income if a couple submits married filing separately tax returns:
Regardless of how a couple files taxes, the fourth income-driven repayment method — Revised Pay as You Earn (REPAYE) — will take the income of both spouses into account when calculating payments.
Choosing your best way to repay student loans when getting married could potentially save you money.
Melanie Lockert contributed to this report.
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1 Important Disclosures for Splash Financial.
Splash Financial Disclosures
Terms and Conditions apply. Splash reserves the right to modify or discontinue products and benefits at any time without notice. Rates and terms are also subject to change at any time without notice. Offers are subject to credit approval. To qualify, a borrower must be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident in an eligible state and meet applicable underwriting requirements. Not all borrowers receive the lowest rate. Lowest rates are reserved for the highest qualified borrowers. If approved, your actual rate will be within a range of rates and will depend on a variety of factors, including term of loan, a responsible financial history, income and other factors. Refinancing or consolidating private and federal student loans may not be the right decision for everyone. Federal loans carry special benefits not available for loans made through Splash Financial, for example, public service loan forgiveness and economic hardship programs, fee waivers and rebates on the principal, which may not be accessible to you after you refinance. The rates displayed may include a 0.25% autopay discount.
The information you provide to us is an inquiry to determine whether we or our lenders can make a loan offer that meets your needs. If we or any of our lending partners has an available loan offer for you, you will be invited to submit a loan application to the lender for its review. We do not guarantee that you will receive any loan offers or that your loan application will be approved. Offers are subject to credit approval and are available only to U.S. citizens or permanent residents who meet applicable underwriting requirements. Not all borrowers will receive the lowest rates, which are available to the most qualified borrowers. Participating lenders, rates and terms are subject to change at any time without notice.
To check the rates and terms you qualify for, Splash Financial conducts a soft credit pull that will not affect your credit score. However, if you choose a product and continue your application, the lender will request your full credit report from one or more consumer reporting agencies, which is considered a hard credit pull and may affect your credit.
Splash Financial and our lending partners reserve the right to modify or discontinue products and benefits at any time without notice. To qualify, a borrower must be a U.S. citizen and meet our lending partner’s underwriting requirements. Lowest rates are reserved for the highest qualified borrowers. This information is current as of October 1, 2020.
2 Important Disclosures for Laurel Road.
Laurel Road Disclosures
All credit products are subject to credit approval.
Laurel Road began originating student loans in 2013 and has since helped thousands of professionals with undergraduate and postgraduate degrees consolidate and refinance more than $4 billion in federal and private school loans. Laurel Road also offers a suite of online graduate school loan products and personal loans that help simplify lending through customized technology and personalized service. In April 2019, Laurel Road was acquired by KeyBank, one of the nation’s largest bank-based financial services companies. Laurel Road is a brand of KeyBank National Association offering online lending products in all 50 U.S. states, Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico. All loans are provided by KeyBank National Association, a nationally chartered bank. Member FDIC. For more information, visit www.laurelroad.com.
As used throughout these Terms & Conditions, the term “Lender” refers to KeyBank National Association and its affiliates, agents, guaranty insurers, investors, assigns, and successors in interest.
Assumptions: Repayment examples above assume a loan amount of $10,000 with repayment beginning immediately following disbursement. Repayment examples do not include the 0.25% AutoPay Discount.
Annual Percentage Rate (“APR”): This term represents the actual cost of financing to the borrower over the life of the loan expressed as a yearly rate.
Interest Rate: A simple annual rate that is applied to an unpaid balance.
Variable Rates: The current index for variable rate loans is derived from the one-month London Interbank Offered Rate (“LIBOR”) and changes in the LIBOR index may cause your monthly payment to increase. Borrowers who take out a term of 5, 7, or 10 years will have a maximum interest rate of 9%, those who take out a 15 or 20-year variable loan will have a maximum interest rate of 10%.
KEYBANK NATIONAL ASSOCIATION RESERVES THE RIGHT TO MODIFY OR DISCONTINUE PRODUCTS AND BENEFITS AT ANY TIME WITHOUT NOTICE.
This information is current as of December 1, 2020. Information and rates are subject to change without notice.
3 Important Disclosures for SoFi.
4 Important Disclosures for Earnest.
To qualify, you must be a U.S. citizen or possess a 10-year (non-conditional) Permanent Resident Card, reside in a state Earnest lends in, and satisfy our minimum eligibility criteria. You may find more information on loan eligibility here: https://www.earnest.com/eligibility. Not all applicants will be approved for a loan, and not all applicants will qualify for the lowest rate. Approval and interest rate depend on the review of a complete application.
Earnest fixed rate loan rates range from 2.98% APR (with Auto Pay) to 5.49% APR (with Auto Pay). Variable rate loan rates range from 1.99% APR (with Auto Pay) to 5.34% APR (with Auto Pay). For variable rate loans, although the interest rate will vary after you are approved, the interest rate will never exceed 8.95% for loan terms 10 years or less. For loan terms of 10 years to 15 years, the interest rate will never exceed 9.95%. For loan terms over 15 years, the interest rate will never exceed 11.95% (the maximum rates for these loans). Earnest variable interest rate loans are based on a publicly available index, the one month London Interbank Offered Rate (LIBOR). Your rate will be calculated each month by adding a margin between 1.82% and 5.50% to the one month LIBOR. The rate will not increase more than once per month. Earnest rate ranges are current as of October 26, 2020, and are subject to change based on market conditions and borrower eligibility.
Auto Pay discount: If you make monthly principal and interest payments by an automatic, monthly deduction from a savings or checking account, your rate will be reduced by one quarter of one percent (0.25%) for so long as you continue to make automatic, electronic monthly payments. This benefit is suspended during periods of deferment and forbearance.
The information provided on this page is updated as of 10/26/2020. Earnest reserves the right to change, pause, or terminate product offerings at any time without notice. Earnest loans are originated by Earnest Operations LLC. California Finance Lender License 6054788. NMLS # 1204917. Earnest Operations LLC is located at 302 2nd Street, Suite 401N, San Francisco, CA 94107. Terms and Conditions apply. Visit https://www.earnest.com/terms-of-service, email us at [email protected], or call 888-601-2801 for more information on our student loan refinance product.
© 2020 Earnest LLC. All rights reserved. Earnest LLC and its subsidiaries, including Earnest Operations LLC, are not sponsored by or agencies of the United States of America.
5 Important Disclosures for LendKey.
Refinancing via LendKey.com is only available for applicants with qualified private education loans from an eligible institution. Loans that were used for exam preparation classes, including, but not limited to, loans for LSAT, MCAT, GMAT, and GRE preparation, are not eligible for refinancing with a lender via LendKey.com. If you currently have any of these exam preparation loans, you should not include them in an application to refinance your student loans on this website. Applicants must be either U.S. citizens or Permanent Residents in an eligible state to qualify for a loan. Certain membership requirements (including the opening of a share account and any applicable association fees in connection with membership) may apply in the event that an applicant wishes to accept a loan offer from a credit union lender. Lenders participating on LendKey.com reserve the right to modify or discontinue the products, terms, and benefits offered on this website at any time without notice. LendKey Technologies, Inc. is not affiliated with, nor does it endorse, any educational institution.
Subject to floor rate and may require the automatic payments be made from a checking or savings account with the lender. The rate reduction will be removed and the rate will be increased by 0.25% upon any cancellation or failed collection attempt of the automatic payment and will be suspended during any period of deferment or forbearance. As a result, during the forbearance or suspension period, and/or if the automatic payment is canceled, any increase will take the form of higher payments. The lowest advertised variable APR is only available for loan terms of 5 years and is reserved for applicants with FICO scores of at least 810.
As of 11/13/2020 student loan refinancing rates range from 1.97% to 8.54% Variable APR with AutoPay and 2.95% to 8.77% Fixed APR with AutoPay.