Can I Be Held Responsible For A Former Spouse’s Student Debt?
One of the most common questions we hear from divorcing couples is whether both parties will be held equally responsible for paying off one person’s student debt once the divorce has been finalized. The answer to this question will vary depending on the specific circumstances of a couple’s case. In some instances, both parties may be required to share responsibility for repayment, while in others, repayment could end up being the sole responsibility of the person who took out the loan. Read on to learn more about how Florida courts handle these kinds of issues.
Dividing Marital Debt
In Florida, divorcing couples must divide not only all of their marital assets, or assets acquired by either spouse during the course of the marriage, but also their marital debt. The latter covers any debt incurred by either spouse during the marriage, including a student loan taken out by only one spouse. A student loan incurred by one spouse before the marriage took place, on the other hand, would most likely be considered separate debt, so responsibility for repayment would lie only with the borrowing spouse. This makes determining whether a student loan is a separate or marital debt of the utmost importance.
Factors that Could Include Repayment of Your Student Loans
The most important factor in determining whether a student loan is a marital debt or a separate debt is the date that the loan was actually taken out. Generally, as long as the funds were borrowed after the marriage took place, the loan will qualify as marital in nature. This is true even when only one person’s name is on the loan documents. Courts are, however, willing to consider other factors when deciding how to fairly divide responsibility for repayment of a student debt, including:
- Whether the parties entered into a prenuptial agreement that categorized the debt as separate;
- The duration of the marriage; and
- Whether the loan improved the couple’s financial prospects.
How these factors are weighed in a particular case will help a court determine what type of repayment plan is equitable. If, for example, a loan was taken out after a marriage and the education it paid for was critical to the parties’ income, then a court would most likely decide that both parties should be responsible for paying it off. Alternatively, repaying a debt that was taken out prior to a short-lived marriage would probably end up being the responsibility of the person who actually incurred the debt.
Prenuptial Agreements Can Protect Your Financial Interests
One of the best ways to avoid having to pay off a spouse’s student loan after divorce is to enter into a prenuptial agreement where the parties both agree on who will be responsible for any debts incurred during the marriage. Divorcing couples can also avoid leaving this decision in the hands of a judge by attempting to negotiate an out-of-court agreement.
Schedule a Free Initial Consultation Today
Do you have questions about who will be responsible for paying off a spouse’s student loan if you get divorced? We can help you navigate these kinds of complex legal questions, while also working to protect your financial interests. Call the experienced Florida property division legal team at Sandra Bonfiglio, P.A. to learn more.