When I was 25, I went through a divorce. That meant we had to split up all our assets and debts. Dealing with student loans and divorce in particular is a bit more complicated and requires some additional knowledge beforehand.
Needless to say, going through a divorce can be a long and grueling process of untangling your commingled finances, especially when you have debt. If you’re married with student loan debt and are considering divorce, here’s how the process will affect you — and how to prepare.
Specifically, we’ll look at:
There are no simple answers when it comes to divorce. Student loans are one of many different factors that must be considered, so let’s start with the basics. Who is responsible for student loan debt in a divorce?
Know your state’s laws
When going through a divorce, you must divide all your assets and debts in accordance to the laws of the state in which you live.
Anything you jointly own is considered marital property and will be divided according to whether you live in a community property or equitable distribution state.
In a community property state, both spouses have equal ownership of all marital property and everything is split 50-50.
In an equitable distribution state, the division of marital property is more complicated since each spouse has a legal claim to a fair and equitable portion of any assets, which may or may not mean a 50-50 split. Most states are equitable distribution states, and the courts will have the final say.
At times, assets are divided among spouses differently than the debts are. Usually, however, they are divided using the same formula.
Student loan debt before marriage
If you and your spouse have an equal amount of student loan debt, divorce agreements are a little easier to work out. You each take responsibility for your own student loans and make the payments.
However, if one spouse has more student loan debt than the other, the couple and their legal counsel will have to come to an agreement for dividing up the debts and assets in an attempt to balance.
One of the most common misconceptions about dividing student loan debt is that all debt obtained before getting married becomes shared debt once you’re married. This is not always the case.
Legally, any student loan debt you incurred before getting married is considered separate property and remains so after the divorce (with the exception of a prenup stating otherwise). So if you borrowed $70,000 to attend law school before marrying your spouse, that debt is yours.
Student loan debt after marriage
The division of student loan debt becomes a bit trickier if the loans were obtained during the marriage.
In some cases, the spouse who has the student loan debt isn’t necessarily the one who’s the breadwinner or makes the loan payments. How this debt is divided, again, goes back to the state in which you live, as well as which spouse benefited from borrowing student loans.
If the student loan is solely in one spouse’s name and the lender didn’t take the other person’s credit into consideration when granting it, it’s possible the other spouse will be off the hook. Again, these factors are largely situational, so the outcome will vary by couple.
Dealing with student loans and divorce can be tricky. As you’re going through the process and must divide your student loan debt, here are three important questions to ask that will help determine a fair outcome.
1. What was the money used for?
In most cases, the funds from a student loan go toward paying tuition, school fees, books and other educational materials in the pursuit of a degree.
However, some of the money borrowed can inevitably go toward living expenses and other costs that benefit the entire family. This should be taken into consideration for purposes of repaying the debt and how each spouse benefited from the money.
2. What is the earning power of each spouse?
When calculating equitable distribution of assets and debt, take into account each spouse’s ability to support themselves and any dependents.
If one spouse has no significant income or earning potential on their own, the courts will be less likely to deem it fair for that spouse to incur part of the student loan debt responsibility.
3. Did the borrower earn a degree during the marriage?
If the student loan borrower did earn a degree as a result of the debt, it needs to be determined whether that degree is considered separate or marital property, and this is determined by where you live.
In some states, such as New York, a professional degree earned during the marriage can be considered marital property due to the lifetime earning potential. Any debt incurred while obtaining what’s considered marital property is most always categorized as marital debt. This means the student loan debt divorce agreement would deem both spouses responsible for repayment.
After a divorce, student loan debt is typically still the responsibility of the person who incurred it. However, there are exceptions depending on your personal situation and what the courts decide is fair and equitable division for both spouses.
Be sure to consider all the possibilities and consult with a lawyer before a divorce so you know what to expect. Divorce is never an easy process, but you can make it a little less painful by being financially prepared.
Laura Woods contributed to this report.
This report was originally published May 12, 2016.
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1 Important Disclosures for Splash Financial.
Splash Financial Disclosures
Splash Financial loans are available through arrangements with lending partners. Your loan application will be submitted to the lending partner and be evaluated at their sole discretion. For loans where a credit union is the lender, or a purchaser of the loan, in order to refinance your loans, you will need to become a credit union member.
The Splash Student Loan Refinance Program is not offered or endorsed by any college or university. Neither Splash Financial nor the lending partner are affiliated with or endorse any college or university listed on this website.
You should review the benefits of your federal student loan; it may offer specific benefits that a private refinance/consolidation loan may not offer. If you work in the public sector, are in the military or taking advantage of a federal department of relief program, such as income based repayment or public service forgiveness, you may not want to refinance, as these benefits do not transfer to private refinance/consolidation loans.
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 May 1, 2020.
Fixed APR: Annual Percentage Rate [APR] is the cost of credit calculating the interest rate, loan amount, repayment term and the timing of payments. Fixed Rate options range from 2.88% (without autopay) to 7.27% (without autopay) and will vary based on application terms, level of degree and presence of a co-signer. Rates are subject to change without notice. Fixed rate options without an autopay discount consist of a range from 2.88% per year to 6.21% per year for a 5-year term, 3.40% per year to 6.25% per year for a 7-year term, 3.45% to 5.08% for a 8-year term, 3.89% per year to 6.65% per year for a 10-year term, 4.18% per year to 5.11% per year for a 12-year term, 4.20% per year to 7.05% per year for a 15-year term, or 4.51% per year to 7.27% per year for a 20-year term, with no origination fees. The fixed interest rate will apply until the loan is paid in full (whether before or after default, and whether before or after the scheduled maturity date of the loan).
Variable APR: Annual Percentage Rate [APR] is the cost of credit calculating the interest rate, loan amount, repayment term and the timing of payments. Variable rate options range from 1.99% (with autopay) to 7.10% (without autopay) and will vary based on application terms, level of degree and presence of a co-signer. Our lowest rate option is shown with a 0.25% autopay discount. Our highest rate option does not include an autopay discount. The variable rates are based on the Variable rate index, is based on the one-month London Interbank Offered Rate (“LIBOR”) published in The Wall Street Journal on the twenty-fifth day, or the next business day, of the preceding calendar month. As of April 27, 2020, the one-month LIBOR rate is 0.43763%. The interest rate on a variable rate loan is comprised of an index and margin added together. The margin is a fixed amount (disclosed at the time of your loan application) added each month to the index to determine the next month’s variable rate. Variable rate options without an autopay discount consist of a range from 2.01% per year to 6.30% per year for a 5-year term, 4.00% per year to 6.35% per year for a 7-year term, 2.09% per year to 3.92% per year for a 8-year term, 4.25% per year to 6.40% per year for a 10-year term, 2.67% per year to 4.56% per year for a 12-year term, 3.44% per year to 6.65% per year for a 15-year term, 4.75% per year to 6.93% per year for a 20-year term, or 5.14% per year to 7.10% for a 25-year term, with no origination fees. APR is subject to increase after consummation. Variable interest rates will fluctuate over the term of the borrower’s loan with changes in the LIBOR rate, and will vary based on applicable terms, level of degree earned and presence of a co-signer. The maximum variable rate may be between 9.00% and 16.00%, depending on loan term. The floor rate may be between 0.54% and 4.21%, depending on loan term. These rates are subject to additional terms and conditions, and rates are subject to change at any time without notice. Such changes will only apply to applications taken after the effective date of change.
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 June 23, 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 5.79% APR (with Auto Pay). Variable rate loan rates range from 1.99% APR (with Auto Pay) to 5.64% 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 July 31, 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 7/31/2020. 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.
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5 Important Disclosures for CommonBond.
Offered terms are subject to change. Loans are offered by CommonBond Lending, LLC (NMLS # 1175900). If you are approved for a loan, the interest rate offered will depend on your credit profile, your application, the loan term selected and will be within the ranges of rates shown. All Annual Percentage Rates (APRs) displayed assume borrowers enroll in auto pay and account for the 0.25% reduction in interest rate. All variable rates are based on a 1-month LIBOR assumption of 0.18% effective July 10, 2020.